If you love museums and “antiracism,” you’ll find a frenzied fondness for Tufts University’s new certificate program.
The private Massachusetts research school has diagnosed museum curation with a bad case of white supremacy, and it’s offering a post-graduate cure.
From school paper The Tufts Daily:
Kelli Morgan, director of curatorial studies and professor of the practice in curatorial studies and history of art and architecture, founded a new graduate certificate program this year, the Antiracist Curatorial Practice. Morgan developed the program, which currently offers five online courses designed to be completed in one to two years, to counter the systemic racism often found in museum curation.
Kelli didn’t arrive at her conclusion overnight:
Morgan decided to establish the program after experiencing years of discrimination as an art museum curator, most recently as associate curator of American art at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
“It was coming to…the affirmation that class discrimination, gender discrimination and racial discrimination are really rampant in our museum culture, specifically in traditional art institutions.”
She quit that job following serial victimization:
“I resigned because, in experiencing the type of racial discrimination in that position that I had experienced in my previous two positions, I was like, ‘It’s not unique to the institutions,’ as I initially thought…this is unique to the field.”
Kelli looked at current college offerings — museum studies, curatorial studies, and art history courses — and saw a glaring neglect:
“I [realized] there literally isn’t anything out there that offers this kind of education…that really gets at strategies to address this stuff.”
Messaging with The College Fix, Kelli indicated that excitement’s in the air:
“Interest in the program is high. Currently, I have one student fully enrolled and am working from a list of approximately 120 potential applicants.”
In Kelli’s 2020 essay “To Bear Witness: Real Talk about White Supremacy in Art Museums Today,” she recalls her racist run-ins:
After six years of working as a museum curator — at a small, a mid-size, and, currently, a very large institution — I’ve learned how nefarious the culture of white supremacy in art museums really is.
Subsequently, she’s suffering from the same aliment endured by WWII vets:
The PTSD from racial trauma that many of my BIPOC colleagues and I are carrying is a clear indication that art museums are absolutely not in solidarity with BIPOC people and their communities as they claim to be.
Like the rest of America’s institutions, the museum world is definitely changing. These days, social consciousness is key:
Back to Tufts, the new program comes courtesy of a collaboration with other museum experts, including Boston Museum of Fine Arts Director of Academic Engagement Dalia Linssen. She schooled The Tufts Daily on museums’ racist rot:
“As institutions with long histories of exclusion, museums were often historically built on systems of racialized power dynamics. [Kelli’s] curriculum demonstrates that antiracist methodologies are not limited to curatorial work, but operate across museum areas as mechanisms to learn about how these histories continue to impact current practices, activate informed models that dismantle systemic racism, and to recreate museums in dialogue with their communities.”
Cruz Pantojas — who prefers to be referenced as “they/them” and is currently the program’s sole student — is thrilled to find meaning:
“As the inaugural student in the program, the experience has been deeply meaningful. Being the ‘first’ adds a bit of fun pressure and generative creativity. [The] program has helped to reimagine my humanist practice and chaplaincy from a curatorial lens, seeing the linkages between culture, art and the human condition.”
Still, not everyone’s beaming about the offering. Former New York University Professor Michael Rectenwald estimates it will make students think they know things they don’t. He made that clear to the Fix:
“It is premised on the flawed notion that museum curation must be racist to begin with, because ‘systemic racism’ is purportedly to be found everywhere. Thus, instead of learning about the history of art, students will be indoctrinated into an ideology.”
“It will further lower the bar as to what constitutes art, while giving students a false sense of having acquired knowledge.”
One thing seems clear: Every corner of America is being swept for white supremacy. And it’s astonishing how much is being found.
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