Tacoma Art Museum (TAM) has begun the development of an annual unrestricted monetary award for Black artists working in the Puget Sound region. The first cycle of the award will begin in late 2021, with an inaugural recipient to be announced in February 2022. The as-yet-unnamed award is an acknowledgment of the institutional erasure of Black artists and stories from the art historical narrative.
Regarding the need for the award, award program manager Victoria Miles stated: “We cannot deny that institutionally, systemically, and structurally Black artists in this region have been ignored by museums and art institutions or used for diversity initiatives. With this grant we begin to consider: how do we as an institution move forward and towards forming lasting relationships? Transparency is a necessary, but minor step. The acknowledgement of harm does not articulate the bonds of exploitation that produce the institutional advantages and benefits received from harming Black artists. Recognition alone is not the sole remedy for harm and inequity. This work cannot end at institutional transparency. Museums occupy material and immaterial space in the community—to build connections with Black artists TAM must welcome them into the institutional space and truly support their work. Along with resources, visibility and community support are critical for the creative progression and establishment of Black artists. To me, this grant isn’t restorative but a generative step towards necessary connectivity and transparency.”
Miles’ process of creating the tenets of the award will be informed by input from Black artists and other community members.
“TAM is incredibly excited to announce this long overdue investment in Black artists in the Puget Sound,” said Executive Director David F. Setford. “We must ensure our resources and actions are meaningfully supporting our commitments to diversity, inclusion, equity, and accessibility, both internally and externally, in every aspect of the museum’s work. Supporting Black artists is simply the right thing to do.”