Addressing Equity and Community Building in Museum Contexts

Posted in books, resources by Editor on October 26, 2021

From the press release (20 October 2021), via Art Daily:

Cover Image: Titus Kaphar (b. 1976), Darker Than Cotton, 2017, oil on canvas, 63 x 36 inches (Jackson: Mississippi Museum of Art, Gift of The Gallery Guild, Inc., 2018.008 / ©Titus Kaphar).

The Center for Art & Public Exchange at the Mississippi Museum of Art, in Jackson, MS, today announced the release of two publications in service to the art museum sector thanks to generous support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Established in 2018, CAPE’s mission is to use original artworks, exhibitions, programs, and engagements with artists to foster mutual understanding and inspire new narratives about contemporary Mississippi. The publications, CAPE Toolkit and Compassion, Art, People, and Equity: The Story of the Center for Art and Public Exchange at the Mississippi Museum of Art, are intended to serve as road maps for other art museums grappling not only with how to enact pledges to demonstrate diversity, equity, access, and inclusion during national awakenings regarding antiracism and social justice but also how to authentically serve their communities.

CAPE Toolkit by CAPE Managing Director Monique Davis is a digital publication that offers a model intended to guide institutional transformation by investigating equity, transparency, and truth in a community. It is available on the Museum’s website.

“CAPE’s goal is to align actions with methods,” said Davis. “To develop programs that would meaningfully connect with the community, we first opened ourselves to the adjustments we knew we would have to make in our own institution. In harmony with our community’s expectations and keyed to its values, our goals are simple in articulation and very complicated in execution. We do not simply say what or with whom we stand. Rather, we discover and embody truth.”

Compassion, Art, People, and Equity: The Story of the Center for Art and Public Exchange at the Mississippi Museum of Art by art critic and writer Seph Rodney, PhD, describes CAPE’s establishment, its partners and participants, and its signature programs as a blueprint for promoting change internally and externally. The 21-page softcover is available on the Museum’s website.

Rodney explained, “CAPE’s purpose is inhabited by the feelings, wishes, and concerns of the community. The weaving of narratives around and through works of art begins when we can see the work and wrestle with its meanings. CAPE programs address a variety of sensitive subjects: labor, social status, justice, identity, visibility, accessibility, age, race, gender, sexuality, education (formal and otherwise), socioeconomic class, personal belief, myths, territory, land, power, and care of the soul. At the intersection of art and life, there is the potential for transformation, for healing.”

Betsy Bradley, director of MMA, said, “Our partnership with Tougaloo College in 2017 that activated conversations around art and civil rights, confirmed the need for honest dialogue in and about Mississippi. We knew that the conversations had to extend from the curatorial department to connect with our visitors and more broadly. Thus began CAPE, dedicated to the exploration of ideas about race and equity as inspired by looking closely at artworks together. We recognized that our staff, all expertly trained, and trustees would benefit from learning responsible ways to elicit and manage these difficult conversations. Ultimately, we moved more intimately into the heart of equity at all levels. As our journey continues, we hope these publications inspire colleagues embarking on their own.”

MMA staff and trustees training partners included the Liz Lerman Critical Response Process℠ that focused on a system of observation and inquiry by Museum visitors, and the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation (Winter Institute) in Jackson created opportunities for shared understandings in discussions of race and equity issues.

CAPE Toolkit Components

Community Advisory Council (CAC) was established in 2019 and developed a series of engagements for residents of Jackson and adjacent counties.

“CAC members are engaged in the Museum’s on-going planning and operations as collaborators and partners, providing their experience and wisdom,” said Davis. “Our goal is to make the Museum not only a safe space but a brave space for exchange.”

The Innovation Lab was a physical space in the Museum where visitors were invited to respond to and participate in the curatorial process and discuss their experiences as visitors. The goal was multifold:
• to consider and challenge traditional modes of presenting information;
• to invite visitors to become co-curators to inform new modes of presentation;
• to investigate how people experience artworks in relationship to one another and what MMA’s role is in facilitating these interactions;
• to reflect on the process of identifying and incorporating new insights and directions into future exhibitions.

Re:Frame is an ongoing series of staged dialogues about issues of contemporary significance seen through the lens of the visual arts. Topics have included mass incarceration and the Mississippi State Penitentiary’s Parchman Farm, minority farm ownership, economic injustice, disenfranchisement, and the significance in contemporary life of the cotton industry’s fraught history. In consultation with the Winter Institute, Re:Frame dialogues have included collaborations with the Southern Poverty Law Center, Mississippi Center for Justice, Mississippi Minority Farmers Alliance, and a wide range of local voices including artists, former Parchman inmates, farmers, chefs, musicians, and podcasters.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation grant also supported the creation of two types of engagements with artists: the In-State Residency program and the National Artist-In-Residency program. Both programs were developed to engage artists and communities in a collaborative exploration of Mississippi places and their histories. Their objectives are to co-produce art that fosters deeper understanding and honors personal truths. In-State artists included Mark Geil, daniel johnson, and Charles Edward Williams. The national program featured Jeffrey Gibson, Nick Cave, and Shani Peters. Peters’ residency was supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Monique Davis is Managing Director for the Center for Art and Public Exchange (CAPE) at the Mississippi Museum of Art (MMA) where she also serves as the Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer. CAPE is a W.K. Kellogg Foundation- and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation-funded initiative that uses artwork, exhibitions, engagement with artists, and programming as a vehicle to have conversations about race and equity. Davis is responsible for creating brave spaces that expand visitors’ perspectives and reveal our shared humanity. She is deeply committed to the belief that art has the power to transform and inform us. Prior to her tenure at the Museum, Monique served as the Senior Program Manager for Parents for Public Schools of Jackson. Her primary responsibility was teaching parents how to be effective advocates for their children by creating workshops to help parents navigate bureaucratic, and often dehumanizing, systems. Her career has been a winding path that has resulted in her owning and operating a restaurant, advocating for homeless veterans at the federal level, and creating safe spaces for nursing mothers. Her board affiliations include Shift Collective (Chair); Visit Jackson (Treasurer); USDAC (United States Department of Arts and Culture) Cultural Agent for Mississippi; Coleman Center for the Arts (Treasurer); and Alternate ROOTS (member and former Chair). Davis is a CPA and a graduate of Howard University.

Seph Rodney, PhD, was born in Jamaica, and came of age in the Bronx, New York. He joined the staff at Hyperallergic in 2016, became an editor a year and a half later, and is currently the opinions editor and a senior critic writing on visual art and related issues. He has also written for The New York Times, CNN, NBC Universal, and American Craft Magazine and penned catalogue essays for Crystal Bridges and the artists Meleko Mokgosi, Teresita Fernandez, and Joyce J. Scott, among others. He has appeared on television on the AM Joy show with Joy Reid and the Jim Jefferies Show on Comedy Central. His book, The Personalization of the Museum Visit, was published by Routledge in May 2019. In 2020, he won the Rabkin Arts Journalism Prize and can be heard weekly on the podcast The American Age. His doctorate in museum studies was earned from Birkbeck College, University of London. He has taught research methodology courses at Parsons School of Design and writing courses at the School of Visual Arts. He has also been a visiting art critic at the Yale School of Art.

Call for Proposals | IDEAL Internship Grants, Decorative Arts Trust

Posted in opportunities by Editor on October 26, 2021

From the press release:

IDEAL Internship Grants from the Decorative Arts Trust
Proposals due by 30 November 2021

The Decorative Arts Trust invites art museums, history museums, and historic sites to submit IDEAL Internship Grant proposals by 30 November 2021. The IDEAL Internship Initiative is part of the Trust’s growing Emerging Scholars Program. Non-profit institutions are eligible for IDEAL Internship Grants of up to $5,000.

IDEAL Internships focus on inclusivity, diversity, equity, access, and leadership. The Trust recognizes the homogeneity of the museum field and will strive to improve access to curatorial careers  for students of color as a path toward achieving systemic change. In early 2021, the Trust awarded the inaugural IDEAL Internship Grants to the Atwater Kent Collection at Drexel University; The Historic New Orleans Collection and the Backstreet Cultural Museum; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and the Newport Restoration Foundation and the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society. More information about IDEAL Internship Grants is available here.

The Decorative Arts Trust is a non-profit organization that promotes and fosters the appreciation and study of the decorative arts through: exchanging information through domestic and international programming; collaborating and partnering with museums and preservation organizations; and underwriting internships, research grants, and scholarships for graduate students and young professionals. Learn more about the Trust here or by contacting thetrust@decorativeartstrust.org.

At Sotheby’s | In an Indian Garden: Company School Paintings

Posted in Art Market, exhibitions by Editor on October 26, 2021

From the press release (via Art Daily) for the sale:

In an Indian Garden: The Carlton Rochell Collection of Company School Paintings
Sotheby’s, London, 27 October 2021

Lot 3: A Lesser Adjutant Stork (Leptoptilos Javanicus) in a Landscape, Company School, Lucknow, ca. 1775–85 (est. £60,000–80,000). The painting was included in The Wallace Collection’s 2020 exhibition Forgotten Masters: Indian Painting for the East India Company.

In October Sotheby’s will hold the first auction dedicated solely to Company School paintings, the work of Indian master artists who were commissioned by East India Company officials in the 18th and 19th centuries. Ranging in their subject matter from individual animal and human studies to complex architectural panoramas, the remarkable corpus of paintings encapsulates on paper the rich fauna, flora, and architecture of the Indian subcontinent. The 29 works in the auction are being offered by the American collector and art dealer Carlton C. Rochell, Jr., who spent the first 18 years of his career at Sotheby’s, where he founded the Indian and Southeast Asian Art Department in 1988. He was on the Board of Directors and served as Managing Director of Sotheby’s Asia. In 2002, Rochell opened his own gallery in New York.

In 2019 and 2020, The Wallace Collection presented Forgotten Masters: Indian Painting for the East India Company, curated by renowned writer and historian William Dalrymple. The ground-breaking exhibition brought to the fore the names of some of the finest Indian painters working on paper during the late Mughal period, introducing the public to the names of these truly great artists. Many of those same names—Shaykh Zayn al-Din, Ram Das, Bhawani Das, and Ghulam Ali Khan—are represented in this sale, with seven of the works having been loaned to The Wallace Collection exhibition. Most of the others have never been on public view and are emerging for the first time in decades.

“I first began to collect these lesser-known masterpieces over two decades ago simply for my personal enjoyment, my imagination having been captured by their ‘East meets West’ aesthetic. When they were painted, these works were the principal way in which India could be revealed to those in Great Britain, who otherwise could only hear stories about this sumptuous land. The meticulous ‘miniature’ style was scaled up to depict birds, animals, and botanical studies with remarkable lifelike detail, with the results rivalling any Western artists who recorded natural history and travel. Many years on, as they are beginning to take their rightful place in world art, these pieces can now inspire a new generation of collectors who, I hope, will cherish them as I have.” —Carlton C. Rochell, Jr.

“This remarkable collection contains quite simply some of the great masterpieces of Indian painting, brought together by a collector with an incredibly fine eye. This is a unique opportunity to purchase some of the greatest masterpieces of a genre that is only now beginning to receive its full credit.” —William Dalrymple, Writer, Historian, and Curator of Forgotten Masters

“These delightful paintings reflect a fascination and passion for India’s culture and history, from Lucknow to Calcutta to Delhi and Agra, and showcase a remarkable hybrid style merging Mughal and European elements. Both the patronage and the painters provide a great deal of interest to viewers, no more so than now, when this genre of painting is finally receiving the full attention it deserves. These works are the product of true collaboration—not grand portraits of the patrons themselves, but tableaux of everyday human activity, as well as meticulous studies of nature and vernacular architecture.” —Benedict Carter, Sotheby’s Head of Sale

In An Indian Garden features many works from the most renowned series of Company School paintings, including albums commissioned by Sir Elijah and Lady Impey, the Fraser brothers, Viscount Valentia, and Major General Claude Martin. The most famous is that of the Impey family, who created an enchanting menagerie of animals in their gardens in Calcutta and hired local artists to paint the surrounds, with more than half of their over 300-strong collection depicting birds. The Impey Collection was sold at auction in London in 1810, with several pieces held in international institutions, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York—with a similar dramatic image of the Great Indian Fruit Bat—and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Perhaps the person who sparked the fashion for such commissions was merchant, soldier, architect, hot air balloonist, and collector Major General Claude Martin, and the sale offers a Lesser Adjutant Stork from his collection, which survives as a masterpiece of the genre. More recently, these works have passed through such hands as those of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who for many years owned the arresting study of a Stork Eating a Snail; renowned South Asian paintings collector Edwin Binney 3rd; leading scholar and curator Stuart Cary Welch; and former United States Ambassador to Morocco, The Hon. Joseph Verner Reed, Jr.

Prior to the stand-alone auction in London on 27 October, highlights of In an Indian Garden went on view in Sotheby’s galleries in New York (17–20 September), Hong Kong (7–11 October), and London (22–26 October).

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