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Making Art More Inclusive: Museums Work To Address Diversity In Galleries

DAVIS (CBS13) — There's a growing effort to make sure people have more access to art by people of color.

On Friday, UC Davis hosted a forum on the topic with some new ideas on how to address racism in art galleries. As the nation focuses more on issues of diversity, one area facing more scrutiny is minority representation in art museums.

"There are many curators of American art that don't know anything about African American artists," Bridget Cooks, a professor of African American studies at UC Irvine, said.

Some seeking more diversity blame museum leadership for failing to bring in exhibits by artists of color.

"So until you get people on the board or people who are going to donate money, who actually do believe Black lives matter, then you're not going to have the funding to change the permanent collection," Cooks said.

The issue is not new. Many cite a controversial 1969 Metropolitan Museum exhibit called "Harlem On My Mind" as a textbook example of the problem.

"A great art museum had created a splashy first exhibition celebrating Black arts and culture with no Black curators, no Black writers, and worst of all, no artworks by Black artists," African art scholar Susan Mullin Vogel said.

Some art museums, like the Manetti Shremm at UC Davis, now publicly announce their commitments to confront racism with diversity and inclusion statements. And Sacramento's Crocker Art Museum has been hosting an online monthly forum about racial and social inequity within museums.

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"We want to respect and embrace and celebrate the diversity and differences that we all bring to our collective art experiences," Randy Sedar, the president of the Crocker Board of Directors, said.

Some say in order for the nation's celebrated artwork to better reflect our diversity, more outreach is needed.

"Inviting people to museums, having open conversations with them about the current conditions, the past, and a sincere desire to do more," Cooks said.

The Crocker Art Museum is closed right now due to the pandemic, but you can find exhibits online for free.

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