Weatherspoon partners in social justice project

Posted on September 16, 2021

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UNCG students at the Art on Paper exhibition in the Weatherspoon Art Museum

The Weatherspoon Art Museum at UNC Greensboro continues to take huge strides in its equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts.

The museum will collaborate on anti-racist project models and practices as part of the Museum Partnerships for Social Justice Project, a recently announced initiative of the Henry Luce Foundation’s American Art Program. 

The foundation granted the Weatherspoon $125,000 to support the partnership and to ultimately promote the pressing need for cultural conversations across the field.

Throughout an 18-month grant period, the leaders of four museums – the Weatherspoon, the Mississippi Museum of Art, the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, and Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum – will be in communication. In pairs, the grantees will work more closely together.

Each pairing includes one museum that has distinguished itself in anti-racist practices, specifically in the execution of prior Luce-funded projects, and another that will partner to expand anti-racist practices and frameworks at their own museum. 

The Weatherspoon will partner with the Mississippi Museum of Art (MMA), in Jackson, Mississippi.

Together they will examine MMA’s new programs, including their Center for Art and Public Exchange and their Arts and Civil Rights Initiative, which are touted for promoting civil discourse, understanding, and compassion in both internal and public-facing works. The Weatherspoon will also be privy to an in-action case study through MMA and its work as the co-organizer of the nationally touring exhibition A Movement in Every Direction: Legacies of the Great Migration. The evolving dialogue of that case study will support the Weatherspoon in engaging UNCG and its local partners in conversations that reinterpret the museum’s art collection and expand connections in the community.

“Our engagement with the Mississippi Museum of Art’s foundational programs and Great Migration exhibition will help us learn how the Weatherspoon can invite diverse stakeholders to reassess both our holding of American art and the ways in which we share them,” said Juliette Bianco, the Anne and Ben Cone Memorial Endowed Director of the Weatherspoon.

“We hope to use community-generated dialogue to better promote access, inclusion, and transformation and inspire investment in our shared future.”

The Weatherspoon’s latest news comes just months after their announcing a grant from the Terra Foundation for American Art, which will support inclusivity efforts at the museum through the project Leading with Objects: Engaging the Community in Institutional Change. The grant will help the Weatherspoon fund a coordinating curator of community engagement, a position new to the museum, for two years. The curator will connect key project partners to develop a collaborative and inquiry-based reconsideration of its art collection, culminating in a reinstallation of the collection in 2023.

“The initiatives at the Weatherspoon speak to the efforts of the University as a whole,” said Chancellor Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr. “We are committed to being a model for equity, diversity, and inclusion – and bringing outstanding visual arts to our students, the campus community, and the communities in our region.” 

Both initiatives – Leading with Objects and the Museum Partnership for Social Justice Project – extend upon the Weatherspoon’s racial equity plan, Leading Together, which is guiding the museum’s broader work towards equity, diversity, and inclusion.

Members of CoWam, the new UNCG student group that works to amplify the student voice in the arts through student-activated programming and involvement with the Weatherspoon Art Museum, its staff, and its collection.

Story by Brittany Cameron, with information provided by the Henry Luce Foundation
Photography by Martin W. Kane


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