A Letter from VAE Staff + Board of Directors

Dear Creative Community,

In April, the Contemporary Art Museum of Raleigh (CAM Raleigh) opened an exhibition of work by artist Margaret Bowland, whose paintings incorporate, among other symbols, women and girls of color painted in white face. Ms. Bowland herself is white, and without proper context the exhibition threatens the misappropriation (or, worse, the marginalization) of Black history and culture, which is troubling for many viewers.

 As a fellow City-funded arts organization, Visual Art Exchange (VAE Raleigh) agrees with CAM Raleigh that art is a powerful tool for communication. VAE Raleigh also believes this communicative power comes with significant civic responsibility. Unfortunately, CAM Raleigh has not adequately answered individual questions and concerns about the exhibition from members of the creative community. Members of that community approached VAE to give institutional voice to their questions and concerns.

VAE Raleigh believes it is essential going forward that the whole of the presenting art community (patrons, artists, and administrators) are clear on, conscious of, and communicative about the line between provocation and exploitation. We respect provocation as an effective tool for raising awareness and sparking conversations to bring about change. However, responsible, socially engaged cultural art institutes start with an intended impact and work backward from there to present art that achieves the desired ends.

To this end, we are devoting the 2018 VAE Summit to furthering these important conversations and, together, arriving at standards and values that reflect our diverse, inclusive community. Join us on July 21, 2018 as we figure out how Triangle creativity can do its best work!

 VAE Staff + Board of Directors

VAE will:

  • design our exhibits and programming from the outside in, by engaging the community in the planning process.

  • align our resources to identify and address problems using creativity.

  • make sure that all exhibition opportunities have real value for participating artists, including press, print materials, and financial compensation whenever possible.

  • engage with challenging or provocative work by contextualizing it and facilitating open dialogue about it.

  • support free creative expression and lift up work that creates the most positive impact for our community.

  • communicate transparently with our audience about the intended impact of our work, the engagement process during planning, and how others can be involved in our projects.

  • never exhibit or financially support work that co-opts the story of a community without representation from that community acting in a decision making role.

  • select guest curators from communities represented in our exhibits. Charge those curators to engage members of the community in the discussion and to create programming that shows a diverse set of views from that community.

  • require guest curators to submit all works for review six weeks ahead of the exhibition so that VAE can make sure the works fits these guidelines and that challenging work is well contextualized in our communications about the exhibition.

  • design programs, exhibits, events, and funding opportunities that are culturally, physically, and financially accessible.

  • use our institutional privilege to give voice and opportunity to people who might otherwise remain unheard.

  • earn a reputation as an inclusive space where thoughts, concerns, and ideas will be heard.

  • admit when we make mistakes, learn from those mistakes, and work with the community to better understand their diverse perspectives.