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Baltimoreans can be against art sale and still for BMA diversity | READER COMMENTARY

In this April 21, 2020 file photo, a man covers himself from rain with an umbrella as he walks in front of the Baltimore Museum of Art in Baltimore.
In this April 21, 2020 file photo, a man covers himself from rain with an umbrella as he walks in front of the Baltimore Museum of Art in Baltimore. (Julio Cortez/AP)

Lisa Harris Jones makes a very poor case for supporting the Baltimore Museum of Art’s deaccession plans. I would not blame any donor who, having read her letter, withdrew all support from the BMA (“Don’t condemn BMA’s overdue efforts toward artistic diversity,” Oct. 27).

Ms. Jones seems to forget that the “pampered and petted” she so despises are the ones who make cultural institutions such as the BMA possible. Changing the museum’s direction requires working with, not against, them. Dismissing them wholesale also ignores the fact that many of them undoubtedly also understand the absence of minority representation in cultural institutions.

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Further, Ms. Jones displays a dismaying lack of knowledge about the history of art when she expresses “shock” at learning that U.S. museums' art collections comprise mostly works by white male artists. And she is simply wrong in calling these museum bastions of racial segregation. Rather, they are an accurate representation of the white male dominance that has existed for centuries in not just artistic but also literary and musical fields.

Changing a centuries-old paradigm will take time, especially since minorities and women had few or no chances to take their rightful place in these fields until the 20th century. And change should come not by tossing out what has come before but by adding to the rich cultural heritage passed down to us — however wrong-headedly — by those with the time and money to create it.

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A Baltimore resident who is definitely not moneyed but who has always loved the BMA, I am deeply concerned about what is happening there right now. The attempt to deaccession major contemporary works is disturbing, especially when one is closely associated with the gay community. But even more disturbing is the attitude of a new, relatively uninformed board member who seems to feel free to attack those she disagrees with in a public forum.

I hope the BMA weathers this storm. But without well-informed and reasonably judicious board members, it is likely to face further troubles in the future.

Emily Chalmers, Baltimore

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