At Institutions such as Brown, we in the arts benefit from a capitalist system rooted in racial slavery and white settler colonialism that endows University land and premises. The environment was looted, the buildings set on foundations of profound inequality, the knowledge that was cherished and taught was historically not inclusive beyond the white European view. Awareness of faulty premises is just a beginning; it is long past time to more actively address the many spiritual and tangible inequities that have placed our so-called academic freedoms in the shadow of white supremacy. Free is never free where some are not -- we cannot be lazy or fragile or make excuses when asked to inventory what must be done, no matter how challenging or costly to our privilege.
At this particular moment, we not only stand beside Black Lives Matter and all who move in protest against military enforcement of white privilege and its sanctuaries -- we also must be willing to call out those sanctuaries wherever they are in space, time, structure, process, interpersonal behavior, economics, politics, or law. The police represent the manifestation of the dominant white culture’s confusions, and it has been lethal. We cannot let violence, in word or deed, continue unrecognized or unstopped. Toward that end we make commitments as artists, arts scholars, and arts staff within this arts institution of learning. The BAI holds ourselves and our past failures to account, and as we are flawed, so we invite continued response, dialogue, and accountability in return -- without shifting this labor to our Black, Indigenous, and POC colleagues and communities.
Foremost, we will be more proactive in addressing structural racism, including lack of diversity in our staff, programs, faculty, community engagement, and governance. We will find material ways to be more welcoming and responsive to the diversity of the students at Brown. We will counter any and all ways in which students experience inequity or non-inclusiveness in our spaces, our grants, our courses, or our programs.
Because diversity is a meaningless, hollow concept without equity and inclusion, we must center and support Rites and Reason Theatre - one of the oldest continuously producing Black theatres in the nation - a theatre born from the 1968 student walkout, the Civil Rights Movement and racial unrest. In much the same way the University has acknowledged Brown’s complicity in the Slave Trade, the University must address its historical complicity in systematic racism that has allowed Rites and Reason funding to remain at Jim Crow levels making it very difficult - almost impossible - to work at a high level of efficiency, effectiveness, and professionalism. We acknowledge Rites and Reason has been consistently and chronically under-funded and under-appreciated for the intellectual and artistic contributions that it brings to Brown, to Rhode Island, the nation and the field. The BAI will work to make Rites and Reason a funding priority, including extensive renovations to its George Houston Bass Performing Arts Space (the BassPas), and tangible increased support for its programs, artists, scholars, and students who visit or make it home.
We will press for ongoing meaningful conversation at the intersections of systemic racism, including environmental, economic, educational, health-based, and arts-institutional. We are going to press for an open conversation with the administration about how artists and art is policed, how security and authority function in relationship to art production and spaces, and how we can challenge long-standing habits of mind and practice in how we meaningfully make art and support artists on campus.
We will not tolerate any separate-but-equal segregation of BIPOC art into separate or “small” spaces, or naive expectations that when artists are invited to speak, work, write, act, paint, play, invent, or make music, that anyone should control, censor, or diminish what artists want to make, what arts scholars want to discuss, or what students want to ask. We must listen, hear, study, contemplate, rage, laugh, and let every broken heart be seen. White-comfort cannot be an aesthetic curtain that can be dropped on anyone.
In the immediate term, the BAI announces the following programs and opportunities for artists who create work responding to the current crisis:
We are starting a fund for projects that need immediate support to help sustain a creative response of public art in our streets and in our social spaces. These microgrants are for protest art of any kind and are open to Rhode Island residents, current Brown University students, staff, and faculty, as well as Brown University alumni.
We invite applications for four community artists-in-residence who are responding to this current moment. The residencies will provide funding, access to equipment, space and resources in any of the following areas at Granoff Center: the recording studio, the multimedia lab, the virtual reality studio, the motion capture studio.
We are inviting artists to submit their work to a new, rotating street-level digital media installation in the Granoff Center. The installation, viewable from Angell Street, will feature work in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. This opportunity is available to Rhode Island residents, current Brown University students, staff, and faculty, as well as Brown University alumni.
Additionally, we will hire a student outreach coordinator (current graduate or undergraduate student) to work with BAI staff to support communications and program-building. The goal of this position is to make BAI funds, spaces, and production opportunities clear and accessible to a larger, more inclusive group of students.
The BAI commits to articulating and enacting a Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan in a thoughtful, thorough, radical, and robust way, to include further commitments to developing process that are non-discriminatory, by remaining unwavering in our hiring and promotion of underrepresented people, and by standing steadfast that the culture of white privilege that causes obstacles to research, academic productivity, hiring and promotion, is not sustained. We cannot let programming alone represent diversity, and instead we must make governance and organizational structure inclusive.
Finally, we recognize that these short-term programmatic fixes will not undo years of systemic oppression. We are committed to realizing meaningful change in our departments and on our campus. While we know this work will not be easy, it is vital to ensure equality and justice for all.