Artists, community members gather outside Madison Museum of Contemporary Art for final day of exhibition

'We don’t want people to think the issue is done just because it’s the last day,' artist says

· Oct 18, 2022 Tweet

Aina Mohd Naser/The Badger Herald

Artists and community members gathered outside the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art to celebrate artists and demand better from the museum Oct. 9, when the “Ain’t I a Woman” exhibition was scheduled to close.

The exhibition aimed to highlight the work of 23 Black women, femme and gender nonconforming artists, but 16 of the 23 artists pulled their artwork from the exhibition, according to a press release from interdisciplinary artist Portia Cobb.

Artists pulled their work following the vandalization and theft of artist Lilada Gee’s artwork in late June, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

The Oct. 9 gathering outside of MMoCA was co-organized by Cobb and Communication Madison — a small arts organization on Madison’s east side. Communication Madison overseer Jennifer Bastian said her organization focuses on increasing equity in the arts community by building coalitions with like-minded artists and community members.

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Bastian said she was astounded and concerned by the lack of accountability MMoCA showed Gee and other artists.

“We’re not going to let Black women and femmes and gender nonconforming artists feel like no one’s listening,” Bastian said. “They’re part of our community. We need them to feel appreciated, supported and humanized. So we have to keep showing up for them.”

In an effort to lift artists up, Bastian encouraged community members to bring flowers to be left out for the artists.

Additionally, Bastian printed postcards with art from the artists who took part in the exhibit. Postcards were pre-addressed with MMoCA’s address, and Bastian encouraged community members to write a postcard to MMoCA leadership. Bastian also printed various fliers and stickers with QR codes linked to a petition to demand that MMoCA provide artists with a real apology, according to Bastian.

“It’s about all of these different parts of the arts community coming together to support each other because if Black artists aren’t getting a fair shake, none of us are going to get a fair shake,” Bastian said.

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Collective artists made demands in an open letter to MMoCA, its leadership and the greater Madison community. The letter touched on compensation, transparency, accountability and more, gaining the attention of the greater community.

Though the exhibit will no longer be on display, it is important to continue supporting Black artists, according to Cobb.

“We don’t want people to think the issue is done just because it’s the last day [of the exhibit],” Cobb said.

Guest Curator for the exhibit and Milwaukee-based artist Fatima Laster said that she and other artists have to move forward, but they hope they will see actual change in the future.

Spokesperson for MMoCA Marni McEntee said the museum is holding off on responding to media requests at this time.

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This article was published Oct 18, 2022 at 5:19 pm and last updated Oct 18, 2022 at 5:19 pm

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