What we have often seen is that Black and brown faces, whether consciously or not, are used as the disguise for work the institutions need to do themselves, whether changing their own hiring and curatorial practices, or in their relationship with communities. So much of that responsibility is shifted onto artists who are propped up as the voice, as the commitment to these difficult dialogues, while the institutions do not truly push themselves to change. For me, what hurt most was that MoCA leadership was using me and my work as the opening for their “outreach,” while their efforts should have been there in the first place.
White-led art institutions often truly feel that they’ve done the necessary work in terms of conversations and external organization. So, when any grievances or agitation returns to them, quite often it comes as a shock to their system. But a White institution can’t enter a true and difficult relationship with the Black and brown community until they understand their whiteness and their privilege within that dynamic, not to mention the historical complexity of how we have all arrived at this moment.
It was only after the media reported my story that MoCA publicly apologized. Now, Snyder has resigned. And though she did not mention this recent incidence in her resignation statement, it’s clear to me that there is a deeper, more important narrative being buried here.
My own accountability, then, is to reaffirm that this conversation continues well beyond my exhibition and well beyond my relationship with one museum. – Shaun Leonardo, Artist