Decolonizing museums: A priority for the art world in 2021
Alessandra Moctezuma, gallerist and professor of Museum Studies at San Diego Mesa College, takes stock of 2020 and the important lessons learned by artists and curators.
"2020 has been a year of challenges and change," Alessandra Moctezuma writes in a column published in the San Diego Tribune, where she reflects on how COVID-19 and the social upheaval experienced in the past year has affected the cultural industry.
Since spring, not only museums, but all businesses have had to adapt to a new normal that is anything but normal.
Virtual spaces had to be imposed as a safe way to avoid contagion with platforms like Zoom as the only windows to the world, and also came the emergence of a reality that during the Trump administration had been swept under the "carpet." That hard truth was rooted in the economic and social inequality that BIPOC communities suffer in the U.S. and their vulnerability as essential workers that pull the cart that shelters the privileged.
"The pandemic forced colleges to quickly shift classes online. As the economy shut down, students who were essential workers struggled to make ends meet, while Dreamers were left out of the national relief by the Trump administration," writes the gallery owner and professor of museum studies at San Diego Mesa College, who saw how the institution, and especially the MEChA Club, (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán) helped dozens of families that could barely pay rent or fill their refrigerators.
The teacher had, like most, to manage to make her students' visits to museums and networking events through the Internet.
But in that search for solutions amid crisis, her creative imagination was awakened, and she launched other projects that return art to the world around us and not just to the Internet.
One such event was a "drive-in" exhibition in the parking lot of Mesa College.
In doing so, she taught a valuable lesson to her students: resilience is resistance. Resilience means adapting to the situation, no matter how difficult it is to turn obstacles into opportunities.
In this sense, 2021 presents a plethora of paths to explore for the Latino artist community with the support of philanthropists and institutions that take into account the talent of their BIPOC artists and art.
But in addition to the increased support, Moctezuma points to a major challenge for culture this year: the need to continue the struggle of movements like BLM and bring it to the academy, to the places of knowledge, to, and in her own words, to "decolonize the museums."
"Being a Latina professor, I have attracted a diverse group of students. An artworld that has historically been privileged and White is now being forced to change," she writes.
In this context, joining local organizations of women and feminist artists gave Moctezuma the opportunity to "bring a unique perspective: as a woman, as an immigrant, as a Mexican/Chicana," she notes.
The way the struggle must continue is clear. Not through silence and passivity, but through dialogue. And, above all, participation.
"It's time to speak up and participate," she concludes.
Are you ready for the year of Latinx art?