A message from our President and CEO Todd A. Herman, PhD on the death of George Floyd — and art as a catalyst for change.
Our nation and community are currently facing unprecedented stresses and strains. Most recently, the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis has brought back to the surface an underlying division that has persisted in American culture despite historic, landmark progress by dedicated Americans searching for and demanding equal justice. The successes of the 60s and 70s seem a distant memory when faced with continued evidence that we have not moved forward as much as we would like to think. As one protester’s sign poignantly read: “We did not come this far to only come this far.”
Many parts of our community need to come together to see positive change. It starts from understanding what we share, where we find common ground. The arts offer such a platform. Dance, music, film, theater, and visual arts are shared experiences that bring people together. Artists have traditionally been at the forefront in identifying and highlighting societies successes and failures. While the arts are not a panacea—there are many steps to be taken from many corners of society—we must acknowledge and capitalize on those shared experiences the arts offer to build a foundation for progress and understanding of our collective humanity.
But art can (and should) be a catalyst for critical community conversations such as those that need to be had right now. The goal: to confront persistent issues and build a foundation for progress and the exploration of our collective humanity.
As an institution, The Mint Museum strives to do that, from the works in our collection to the exhibitions we plan to the programs our dedicated staff put on. In 2016, the Mint hosted artist Leo Twiggs’ powerful nine-painting exhibition Requiem for Mother Emanuel, created in response to the racially motivated 2015 shooting at Mother Emanuel church in Charleston, S.C. and commissioned our own work by Twiggs, Conversation, featured here. For 16 years, our community relations team has worked tirelessly every single week in one of the city’s most challenged neighborhoods Grier Heights, where art is a vessel for having tough conversations with young students about race, identity and a brighter future. And our talented staff plan countless events throughout the year that highlight the beauty and sometimes hardship of our diverse community.
We are committed to continuing those conversations, even when our doors are closed. Just a couple of weeks ago, we launched a new augmented-reality project, with the help of the Arts & Science Council and AVO Insights, that features five works on view at Mint Museum Uptown tackling race—from identity (Dora’s Dance by Beverly McIver) to the civil rights movement of the 1960s (Selma by Barbara Penington) to racially-motivated violence (Conversation by Leo Twiggs).
The Mint Museum presents works of art—creative expressions of personal experiences—by artists from a wide spectrum of cultural, racial and economic backgrounds. Artistic talent and passion are not the property of any one group, but shared equally. The stories told and the ideas portrayed in these works can be beautiful or they can be difficult truths, but ultimately reflect the complexity that is our world. We can use these works as touchstones to start conversations and begin the process of healing and understanding.
While The Mint Museum is currently closed due to COVID-19, the staff encourages you to look for those creative touchstones that exist around the city and in your community and start a conversation with someone.
One such conversation, “Unmasked: We Can’t Breathe,” is being hosted virtually by our peer museum in the Levine Center for the Arts, the Gantt Center at 6 PM June 3. The conversation about recent injustices against the black community will be hosted by Q City Metro’s Glenn Burkins and will feature U.S. Congressman Alma Adams, former SC state representative and current CNN political commentator Bakari Sellers, as well as Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden and image activist Alvin C. Jacobs, Jr. It will be streamed on the Gantt Center’s YouTube channel. We’ll be there and hope you’ll join us as well.