ATLANTA—Earlier this week, Atlanta-based curatorial and design agency Dashboard announced the Dr. Doris Derby Awards and their three inaugural winners. This news follows a statement from Dashboard earlier this month in which the organization committed to granting $10,000 to a Black artist annually in recognition of the disproportionate access to funding Black artists have historically received in the art industry.
The awards are named in honor of Dr. Doris Derby, an artist, activist and educator who worked in the Civil Rights Movement in Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama alongside Fannie Lou Hamer, Dr. Dorothy Height, Dr. Dorothy Cotton, Dr. Septima Clark, Senator Julian Bond, Congressman John Lewis, Mayor Andrew Young, Reverend Hosea Williams, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and many others. Dr. Derby was a working member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), as well as co-founder of the Free Southern Theater. She was the founding director of the African-American Student Services and Programs at Georgia State University as well as an adjunct associate professor of cultural anthropology.
At the request of Dr. Derby, Dashboard expanded the program to include three separate awards of $10,000, $3,000, and $2,000, along with professional support for each awardee. The 2020 Dr. Doris Derby Award recipients are Nguyen Smith ($10,000), a Jersey City-based, first generation Caribbean-American artist; Tia Blake, aka Miss He ($3,000), a non-binary femme performer from the Atlanta and Athens, Georgia, drag scenes; and LaJuné McMillan ($2,000), a new media artist and creative technologist in New York. The awards are open to Black artists in the United States working in any medium. The inaugural recipients of the awards were chosen by a committee comprised of members of the Dashboard team and the organization’s Board of Directors and Dr. Doris Derby.
NEW ORLEANS—A collective of five former employees have released an open letter addressed to the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) detailing claims of racist and homophobic treatment and other alleged abuses at the museum. Circulated under the heading #DismantleNOMA, the letter was authored by Jennifer Williams, Dr. fari nzinga, Ifátùmínínú Bamgbàlà Arẹ̀sà (formerly known as Kelsi Brooks), Jonathan Serrette, and Jane Kate Wood, all of whom are former employees of NOMA who resigned in recent years. As of this writing, over 600 others from New Orleans and around the country have added their names to the letter using the collective’s website.
“Not only is there a recently installed plantation exhibition on display at the museum,” the collective writes near the letter’s opening, referring to last year’s permanent installation of a historical exhibition devoted to the interior of a former Louisiana plantation, “but there also exists a plantation-like culture behind its facade.” As the letter notes, the July 2018 hiring of African art curator Ndubuisi Ezeluomba remains the only appointment of a Black curator in NOMA’s history, which spans over a century since its founding in 1911. Additionally, the letter describes a predominantly white staff and less than ten-percent Black representation on the museum’s fify-member board, with no Black individuals holding officer roles or serving on the thirteen-member executive committee.
The letter goes on to allege specific instances of “homophobic slurs and racist mimicking by individuals in leadership roles, including recently retired Deputy Director of Finance and Administration, Gail Asprodites, and NOMA’s current Facility Manager, Steve Lewis” along with the use of a closed-circuit security camera system by Facility Management and administrative leadership “to surveil the movements of targeted employees.” The letter concludes with a list of thirteen demands for NOMA, including the immediate removal of Director Susan Taylor, Deputy Director Anne Banos, Facility Manager Steve Lewis, and Human Resources Manager Donna Dunn.
Asked for comment in response to the letter, a representative for NOMA told ARTnews, “We are committed to continuing to develop content and collections through the lens of racial equity and social justice, and our staff plays a major, leading role in this effort. We are committed to doing better to meet the expectations of our BIPOC and LGBTQ community members and to show our intentions through actions.”
ATLANTA—First announced in an Instagram post by Atlanta artist Talecia Tucker on June 12, the Black Creatives Community Fund has collected and awarded $7,500 to fifteen artists in grants of $500 each. In the original post, Tucker describes Black artists as “essential to our current uprising and protesting, creating work and social media content to combat racism, or simply existing as a form of resistance.” The fifteen recipients of the first grants from the Black Creatives Community Fund are Davion Alston, Jalil Amon, Jamal Barber, Caleb Jamel Brown, The Color Ciena, Malik Cody, Rene Fisher, Daniel Gilstrap, Nicholas Goodly, Chioma Hall, Charity Harris, Neka King, Jupiter Moon, Jasmine Rice, and Sofahood.
BIRMINGHAM—The Birmingham Museum of Art (BMA) has announced the appointment of Dr. Emily G. Hanna, Senior Curator of the Arts of Africa and the Americas as Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, a new position on the BMA’s executive leadership team.
“At the Birmingham Museum of Art, we now understand the urgency with which we must address systemic racism from an institutional standpoint, even amid the challenges presented by a global pandemic. The creation of this important position on our leadership team is the first actionable step we have taken since the BMA publicly committed to support the work of social justice and racial equity in early June,” says Dr. Graham C. Boettcher, the museum’s director. “I am proud to have Dr. Emily Hanna step up to serve in this capacity. For nearly two decades, Emily has advocated for inclusion in every facet of the institution, from staffing to museum collections. She has lifted the stories, experiences, and artistic achievements of diverse peoples and groups through her curatorial work and civic engagement, and this new role will allow her to lead the effort to create real and sustained change within our organization and our relationship with the community we serve.”
According to a release from the museum, “The Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion serves to lead, facilitate, and coordinate the internal and external efforts necessary to create an institutional environment that is welcoming, accessible, diverse, hospitable, and respectful to all,” including the integration of diversity, equity, and inclusion into the museum collections, galleries, exhibitions, and programs; workforce development; supplier diversity and vendor/supplier development; internal and external communication; internal resource groups; and the development of accountability metrics.
Hanna has served at the BMA for nearly eighteen years, curating over thirty exhibitions featuring works ranging from Haitian Vodou flags to contemporary Pueblo ceramics. Her exhibition Spiral: An African American Art Collective traveled to The Studio Museum in Harlem in 2011. In her role as curator of Native American art, Hanna has organized the Museum’s response to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), and has shepherded a significant NAGPRA repatriation claim which will result in the return of three objects to the Tlingit people of Alaska next spring.
Hanna received her Ph.D. in African Art from the University of Iowa. In between periods of graduate fieldwork in West Africa, she held a Whitney Doctoral Fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Prior to joining the BMA, she taught and curated at Spelman College and Georgia State University, and served as an adjunct curator at the High Museum of Art.
ATLANTA—In partnership with Invest Atlanta, the official economic development authority for the City of Atlanta, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has established the creaATL Relief Fund to “[facilitate] private philanthropic grants to the independent creative industry workforce engaged in creative industries and entertainment.” Individuals are eligible to apply if they have been residents of the City of Atlanta for more than six months, work in an independent creative industry or the “gig” economy, are unable to receive unemployment benefits from a current or former employee, and can demonstrate financial need related to the economic impact of COVID-19. Find more details here.