This world is too small for less than brotherhood – too dangerous for less than truth.
– Steffen Thomas
As a museum and place of education, the Steffen Thomas Museum of Art has always considered it a critical part of its mission to amplify unheard voices. Today we stand with those fighting racism and police brutality. The violence and oppression experienced by Black communities across America has been exposed for all to see.
We are confident that our namesake, Steffen Thomas, would support this stance. At a time when it was dangerous to do so, he was a staunch advocate for equality, human rights and dignity for all people, regardless of race, creed, color or gender. One facet of his legacy – his guiding principle, is embodied in the “Brotherhood of Man” theme quoted above. Steffen put these words into action every day, not only in his art but in his daily interactions.
The Board of Directors and staff have worked to continue Steffen’s mission from our very beginning with programming designed to celebrate African American culture and to increase access for African American communities and artists to fine art museums. In 2002, we hosted an exhibition featuring the art of George Washington Carver and main speaker, Anthony “Tony” Grooms, author of “Bombingham”, the story of the civil rights era bombings in Birmingham, Alabama. For 17 years, we ran an arts outreach program at the local alternative school, involving predominately African American students, for many, their first venture inside a fine art museum. In 2017, we conducted a wide-ranging Steffen Thomas Legacy Project, composed of 17 artists, over half of whom were African American. Over the last several years, we have hosted exhibitions exclusively for African American artists, with round table discussions of issues impacting African American artists.
Now, at a time when the nation is called upon to acknowledge its failure to address its racial history, we renew Steffen Thomas’ call for equal treatment and freedom for all people. We acknowledge that many American institutions have historically underrepresented people of color and we commit to continue to work to remedy this fact through increased diversity in our own exhibitions, programming, audiences and hiring.
Yet, we also acknowledge that even this is not enough. True allyship is about affirmative steps, bold action and uncomfortable conversations. In an effort to better support this movement, we will be donating the proceeds of the “Black Heritage and the Brotherhood of Man” catalog to the Black artists who participated in this year’s exhibition, many of whom have suffered disproportionately during the Covid 19 pandemic.
We have posted helpful links to organizations, petitions and other resources for our patrons who want to actively demonstrate their support. We urge our members and patrons to join with us in this fight to effect social change for a more just society.