June 1, 2020
Dear Yale School of Art Community,
With our national landscape marked by sorrow, grief, and outrage, the School of Art stands in solidarity with our Black students, faculty, staff, colleagues, friends, and neighbors in New Haven and across the country. We recognize that throughout America’s history and into its vexed present, the recurrent denial of humanity to Black people and their communities has been sustained by police brutality for far too long without consequences or change.
George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery—these lives are among the countless others taken by a system of oversight that, in the name of police order, is plagued by racial profiling and presumption of guilt. These acts reflect the pervasive racial injustice embedded throughout this country’s institutions. It is our responsibility as educators and institutional academic leaders to enable and ensure safe and equitable spaces for all people of color and to pedagogically work and labor to dismantle institutional bias and racism.
We are committed to being an antiracist institution, both as a School and a community. As we are steadfastly committed to building a diverse community of graduate students, we understand that entails building scholarship funds for a sustainable education. We also understand that we must make every effort to build a diverse faculty, continuing to develop a curriculum that addresses explicitly how racial injustice unfolded in history and how it persists in the ever present. We recognize the importance of the artist’s role in bringing forth a civil society—understanding how a practicing artist is challenged and influenced by structural problems of inequity and the climate of political and social dissonance.
This is among the driving motivations of the School’s Art and Social Justice Initiative, wherein programs such as the partnership with the Yale Prison Education Initiative at Dwight Hall brought our graduates as teachers to incarcerated youth and adults vulnerable to a broken justice system. But that program must extend into one that empowers artists to forge the change that needs to take place, and this requires our work to further mold these programs. The death of George Floyd and the protests of the past week prove that social engagement within the arts has never been more important, and that we must even further activate our commitment to art and civil society as the School builds the means through which the arts can encourage humanity and deconstruct hate in all its forms across communities.
As we witness and engage in the nationwide demonstration of outrage, we emerge out of what continues to unfold within the coronavirus crisis that has also disproportionately affected communities of color. Furthermore, we have been confronted with an economic turmoil that has also had its highest impact on people of color. This is a time of loss, anxiety, anger, and grave sadness—and we, as a faculty, will proceed with immediate programming to address this as a community. In the days ahead, the School of Art will launch Speak to Me, an online forum with invited speakers, activists, writers, and artists hosted by poet, playwright, and author Claudia Rankine and Leah Mirakhor, Lecturer in Ethnicity, Race, Migration, in an effort to address the NOW (full schedule forthcoming). We will also proceed to offer micro-grants for project support around art and social justice in early June. Additionally, artist and Associate Professor Meleko Mokgosi will lead a weekly panel beginning this week with UCLA Psychoanalysis Research Professor Jeffrey Prager on June 3rd and author and historian Leslie Harris on June 9th.
I respect your will to voice and to stand for change, but as you do, I beg you to be safe in your actions and should you find yourself within a legal situation because you have faced arrest while in protest, please reach out to us. A national list of resources related to legal help, mutual aid funds, and tips for protestors is being assembled online here.
In memory of George Floyd:
“When off duty after a hard day of fighting, we are like spent troops, ready to plunge into pleasure to obliterate the memory of this slow death on the city pavements. Just as in the South, in spite of the Lords of the Land, we managed to keep alive deep down in us a hope of what life could be, so now, with death ever hard at our heels, we pour forth in song and dance, without stint or shame, a sense of what our bodies want, a hint of our hope of a full life lived without fear, a whisper of the natural dignity we feel life can have, a cry of hunger for something new to fill our souls, to reconcile the ecstasy of living with the terror of dying…”
—Richard Wright, 12 Million Black Voices, 1941
In solidarity with all those speaking out for an equitable world,
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Dean
Professor of Art
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Last edited by: Lindsey Mancini
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