Elevating Black Artists and Holding Ourselves Accountable

While we look to artists to lead us to a better future, we must also look at ourselves.

The incomparable James Baldwin (54, 58, 60) said in 1963: “It is not permissible that the authors of devastation should also be innocent. It is the innocence which constitutes the crime."

The time for American innocence has past, past time for indifferent callousness. Artists have been showing us the way. It’s time to heed them and the MacDowell community of artists who are continuing this work at this crucial time.

As shameful as it is to say, as a country we’ve been here before, as artists have been showing us for decades.

-- MacDowell Chair and Fellow Nell Painter (16, 19), artworks on this page selected by Nell

Faith Ringgold, MacDowell Fellow in visual arts (82), “American People Series #20: Die,” 1967, collection of MoMA

Jacob Lawrence, “They also made it very difficult for migrants leaving the South. They often went to railroad stations and arrested the Negroes wholesale, which in turn made them miss their train,” 1940-41, MoMA

Andy Warhol, “Birmingham Race Riot from X + X” (Ten Works by Ten Painters), 1964, MoMA

Jean Michel Basquiat, “Untitled (Sheriff),” 1981, Carl Hirschmann Collection. © Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat

William Villalongo, “We Can’t Breathe,” 2015, courtesy of Susan Inglett Gallery, NYC

Nell Painter, “Black Lives Matter,” 2020, courtesy of the artist

MacDowell: “Freedom to Create”

A Statement from the Executive Director:

Brutal injustice and state-sanctioned violence against Black Americans have been tragically baked into the DNA of our country since its founding. The recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and Ahmaud Arbery are but current egregious examples of systemic racism at work, and they echo generations of trauma inflicted against Black people.

MacDowell recognizes many simultaneous crises facing the Black community, including the disproportionate agony suffered by Black Americans during this pandemic and the world’s financial upheavals.

The ongoing abuse against the Black community is part of an inhumane ecology that is both visible and invisible. As a cultural institution, MacDowell strives to strengthen and amplify the narratives of all artists in the service of social justice and positive change. We insist on the value of all Black lives as we celebrate Black arts and Black culture.

MacDowell stands with our Black colleagues, artists, and our supporters in the battle against social inequities. If we purport to be “making a place in the world for artists, because art makes the world a better place,” then we must do our share to, in fact, make the world a better place.

In that spirit, MacDowell commits to examining our core residency programs and our institution to fight against internal and external racism. We commit to listening deeply to all artists, as well as to other arts organizations who are leaders in this struggle. We commit to openness, to educating ourselves, and to effectively implementing support that will heighten Black voices. We hold ourselves accountable and are ready to listen and to act for positive change.

-- Philip Himberg