Open letter to museums and galleries in support of education and other essential workers

Open letter to museums and galleries in support of education and other essential workers

e-flux Education

Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Gorup de Besanez. Own work, CC-BY-SA-4.0. Via Wikimedia Commons.

April 20, 2020
Open letter to museums and galleries in support of education and other essential workers

We the undersigned write with grave concern about a growing trend of layoffs targeting education staff at major global museums in the name of COVID-19. Museums including MoMA, LA MOCA, Mass MoCA, Serralves Foundation and others, have recently reported redundancies, many of them affecting freelance and part-time educators and, in the case of the MoMA, offering no horizon of re-employment. Far from redundant, such workers—employed to give tours, design and develop programmes for schools and communities of all ages—are at the heart of museum and gallery work.

As those most in touch with communities outside of the museum, educators push criticality and innovation. Their work is regularly used to attract donors and supporters to many institutions. That they are first in the line of fire for layoffs, is disconcerting, to say the least.

This is especially true as gallery education posts are more often to be those in which racialised, working-class people and women are employed to work with communities who are not members of the cultural elite. At a moment when museums and galleries claim an interest in their diversification, why do they de-fund the very people and communities made most vulnerable by the current crisis?

We find this treatment of educators to be a great tragedy in a moment when their skill-sets—meaning-making, public engagement, community care and support—are more essential than ever. This could be a moment in which to utilise these skills to offer more to communities than virtual museum tours. Instead of retrenching museums into conservative modes of exclusionary content dissemination, a more forward-thinking stance would be to intensify the educational dimension of their offer in this moment of fear, loss and community re-organisation, and to prioritise relationships with their most excluded groups.

Sadly, the reported layoffs follow years of precarity for museum and gallery educators and other cultural workers, who are rendered dispensable in times of economic or social uncertainty. While our letter is focused on the situation of educators, we stand with cleaners, porters, visitor service staff and other low paid and precarious workers in museums and galleries and call on their employers to reverse these layoffs and to offer fairly paid, secure and protected contracts for all cultural workers.

We implore museums and galleries to take this opportunity to re-imagine—with their workers and their communities—the role of culture in the time of COVID-19 and its aftermath. And we ask those museums who are already doing so to step forward and speak out on behalf of education and other essential workers targeted by these cuts.

Signed by:

1. Dr Janna Graham, BA Curating, University of London, Goldsmiths, UK
2. Dr Carmen Moersch, Mainz Academy of Arts, Johannes Gutenberg University, Germany
3. Dr Cayo Honorato, Department of Visual Arts, University of Brasilia, Brazil
4. Professor Irit Rogoff, Curatorial/Knowledge, Goldsmiths, London University, UK
5. Prof Doreen Mende, HEAD Genève and Harun Farocki Institut Berlin, Germany
6. Dr Ines Moreira, NOVA Lisbon and U.Porto, Portugal
7. Ainslie Roddick, ATLAS Arts, Skye, Scotland
8. Mahan Moalemi, writer and researcher
9. Dr Vipash Purichanont, Department of Art History, Silpakorn University, Thailand
10. Dr Sophie Hope, MA Arts Policy and Management, Birkbeck, University of London, UK
11. Ashley Whitfield, Founder, Johannesburg Family Gathering, Johannesburg, South Africa
12. Dr Raimi Gbadamosi, Artist, Academic. DeMontfort University, Leicester, UK.
13. Anne Julie Arnfred, Curator and PhD fellow, Roskilde University, Roskilde, Denmark
14. Eloy V. Palazón, PhD Candidate, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain
15. Andrea Francke, artist and associate lecturer, University of the Arts London, UK
16. Dr Carolina Rito, Centre for Arts, Memory and Communities, Coventry University, UK
17. Dr Bridget Crone, Senior Lecturer in Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths, University of London
18. Sara Greavu, curator and Queer Arts Development Leader, Outburst Arts, Belfast
19. Dr Sarah Pierce, artist and Lecturer in Visual Cultures, National College of Art and Design Dublin
20. Leire Vergara, Dutch Art Institute, Artez University of the Arts, Arnhem/ Bulegoa z/b, Bilbao
21. Astrid Korporaal, Research Curator, Frames of Representation festival at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, UK
22. Dr María Bella, independent researcher and curator, Corcubión, Spain
23. Jenny Richards, PhD candidate, Konstfack, University of the Arts, Stockholm, Sweden
24. Miguel Amado, Director, Sirius Arts Centre, Cobh, County Cork, Ireland
25. Huiying Chen, Curator, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taiwan
26. Ariadna Serrahima, Publisher and PhD candidate, Goldsmiths University, London, UK
27. Ben Messih, Education Curator at the South London Gallery, UK
28. Grant Watson, Tutor, Royal College of Art, London, UK
29. Mariam Atieh, Associate Lecturer, University of Arts London, London College of Fashion, UK
30. Fereshte Moosavi, Independent Curator, PhD Curatorial/Knowledge Goldsmiths University of London, UK
31. Vaida Stepanovaite, Independent curator, MRes Curatorial/Knowledge, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK
32. Ane Rodríguez Armendariz, Cultural Manager, MA Contempemporary Art Theory, Goldsmiths University, London, UK
33. Gema Darbo, Curator, MRes Advanced Practices, Goldsmiths University, London, UK
34. Alex Thorp, Education Curator, Serpentine Galleries, London, UK
35. Dr Felicity Allen, artist, former Head of Interpretation & Education, Tate Britain; founding director, Engage, UK
36. Zoë Marden, artist & assistant researcher, Advanced Practices, Goldsmiths University, London, UK
37. Patricia Roig, MRes Curatorial/Knowledge, Goldsmiths University, London, UK
38. Theodor Ringborg, Artistic Director, Bonniers Konsthall, Stockholm, Sweden
39. Ayesha Keshani, museum worker and PhD candidate Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths University, London, UK
40. Eva Rowson, Managing Director, Bergen Kjøtt, Bergen, Norway .
41. Jemma Egan, Assistant Education Curator, Serpentine Galleries, London, UK
42. Deniz Kirkali, Independent Curator, PhD Curatorial/Knowledge, Goldsmiths University, London, UK
43. Olivia Plender, Royal Institute of Art, Stockholm, Sweden
44. Eduarda Neves, Curator and Director ESAP, Portugal
45. Srajana Kaikini, PhD, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Krea University, independent curator. India.
46. Clara Rocha, Independent Curator and PhD Candidate Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths University, London, UK
47. Lawrence Lek, Artist and PhD Candidate, Royal College of Art, London, UK
48. Dennis Dizon, Independent Digital Curator, MRes Curatorial / Knowledge, Goldsmiths, London, UK
49. Alex Sainsbury, Director, Raven Row, London, UK
50. Samia Henni, Cornell University, USA
51. Vasiliki Antonopoulou, Artist, Royal College of Art, London, UK
52. Maria Morata, Independent Curator and Researcher, Berlin, Germany
53. Laura Hensser, Managing Director, Gasworks, London, UK
54. Michael Maranda, assistant curator, Art Gallery of York University
55. Pascal Schwaighofer, Artist and PhD student Comparative Literature Cornell University, USA
56. Ofri Cnaani, Artist, Associate lecturer, BA Curating, University of London, Goldsmiths, UK
57. Pablo Martínez, Head of Programming, MACBA Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Spain
58. Francesca Maria Lazzarini, Curator and PhD Candidate Curatorial/Knowledge, Goldsmiths University, London, UK
59. Joni Zhu, Research Assistant, Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths, London, UK
60. Joselyne Contreras, PhD candidate in Curatorial Knowledge, Goldsmiths, London, UK
61. Sophie Jung, artist and freelance educator, external tutor at Institut Kunst, Basel, Switzerland
62. Dr Joshua Simon, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia and Maayan Magazine, Tel Aviv-Jaffa
63. Lucia Pietroiusti, Curator, Serpentine Galleries, London UK
64. Murat Adash, Artist and PhD Candidate in Art at Goldsmiths, University of London
65. Dr Ronny Hardliz, artist and researcher, Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Switzerland
66. Avi Varma, PhD candidate at the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK
67. Dr. Anshuman Dasgupta, Kala Bhavan, Visva Bharati University, Santiniketan, India
68. Emily Pethick, Director, Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten, Amsterdam, Netherlands
69. Maya Watanabe, artist and PhD Candidate in Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths University, London, UK
70. Alasdair Milne, MRes student, Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK
71. Sara Martín Terceño, freelance educator, Madrid, Spain
72. Silvia Zayas Serra, artist, freelance educator, Spain
73. Ainhoa Hernandez Escudero, artist, cultural worker, Madrid, Spain
74. Patricia Raijenstein, free freelance educator, Spain
75. Dr. Theo Reeves-Evison. Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, Birmingham School of Art, UK
76. Cibelle Cavalli Bastos, MA, Royal College of Art, London, UK
77. Prof. Dr. Anja Kraus, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences Education, Stockholm University, Sweden
78. Ana Mae Barbosa, Full Professor (retired) from Universidade de São Paulo, Brasil
79. Léontine Meijer-van Mensch Director Ethnological Collections, State of Saxony, Germany
80. Thomas Locher, Dean Academy of Fine Arts Leipzig, Germany
81. Catarina Martins, Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Porto, Portugal
82. Prof. Ulf Aminde weissensee academy of art Berlin
83. Danja Erni, KontextSchule, UdK Berlin, Germany
84. Prof. Dr. Andrea Sabisch, University of Hamburg, Germany
85. Friederike Schönhuth, director RED PONY - agency for art and art education, Frankfurt, Germany
86. Silke Ballath, sideviews. e.V. and German Children and Youth Foundation, Germany
87. Elke aus dem Moore, Director, Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart, Germany
88. Dr. Lüder Tietz, MA Program Museum and Exhibition, University of Oldenburg, Germany
89. Dr. Nanna Lüth, University of the Arts Berlin, Germany
90. Prof.Dr. Silke Wenk, Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg, Germany
91. Natalie Bayer, director, FHXB Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg Museum, Berlin, Germany
92. Tom Holert, Harun Farocki Institute, Berlin, Germany
93. Christine Gerbich, Centre for Anthropological Research on Museums and Heritage, Humboldt-University Berlin, Germany
94. Samuel Guimarães, Art Educator and Professor at School of Music and Performing Arts, Portugal
95. Helene Illeris, Professor of Art Education, University of Agder, Norway
96. Marta Coelho Valente, PhD student in Arts Education, Research Institute of Art, Design and Society, University of Porto, Portugal
97. Raquel Ribeiro dos Santos, Head of Participation, Families and Schools, Culturgest - Fundação Caixa Geral de Depósitos, Portugal
98. Lara Soares, Art educator at Burilar - Creative Processes in Public’s Mediation, Portugal
99. Madalena Wallenstein, Cultural Programmer and Coordinator at CCB/ Fábrica das Artes - Childhoods, Portugal
100. Prof. Dr. Karen Ellwanger, Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg, MA Museum and Exhibition

Full list of signatories here.

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April 20, 2020

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