Baltimore NAACP: BMA must stay the course | READER COMMENTARY
For The Baltimore Sun|
Nov 02, 2020 at 2:31 PM
Kristen Hileman, Senior Curator of Contemporary Art at the Baltimore Museum of Art, talks about a new installation designed to look like spider webs from artist Tomas Saraceno. (Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)
I am writing to publicly thank Chris Bedford and Clair Segal for their leadership in the art world and more specifically their timely efforts to diversify the art collections of the Baltimore Museum of Art (“Baltimore Museum of Art board calls off controversial artwork auction,” Oct. 28). In this moment of national reckoning around racial inequality, police violence and economic inequity, every person and every institution has an obligation to move the needle forward toward creating a more just society. Their resolute intent to guide the BMA toward greater equity and inclusion is commendable and sets an example for others to follow.
Their decision to act to provide for the BMA’s economic security for generations to come, to pay BMA employees no less than $15 an hour and to make investments in Black art is the right choice. It is disturbing and unsettling that their efforts, approved by an overwhelming majority of the BMA board, have been met with such vociferous opposition. It is appalling that efforts by disgruntled board members to hinder the BMA’s evolution include hiring counsel to stop the sale, revoking financial support, submitting resignations from the board and even reinterpreting Association of Art Museum Directors' guidelines permitting the sale of pieces from the BMA collection.
It is shameful that in this day and age bullies opposed to progress are sending letters to the editor condemning the board’s decision on the inflammatory and specious grounds that, “(h)istorically white males have created the vast majority of famous western art,” and that investing in diversity “lowers the bar” and is “pandering” (“Baltimore Museum of Art is gradually getting ‘gutted,'” Oct. 8). In light of the negative push back and the decision to place their plan on hold, I pray that Mr. Bedford, Ms. Segal and the BMA team are not discouraged. I hope that they will continue to be encouraged because, as the late Rep. John Lewis would say, they are causing “good trouble.”
The Baltimore NAACP offers its full support to the BMA staff and board, and we urge them to stay the course. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. reminds us that, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Persevere and stand fast in your efforts, and know that we stand with you in pursuit of righteousness. We hope others in Baltimore will rally and support the BMA’s push for diversity.
Reverend Kobi Little, Baltimore
The writer is president of the Baltimore branch of the NAACP.