At the end of May, the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the events that followed turned our collective focus toward an unforgivable history of systemic violence, oppression, injustice, and inequality. Since that time, many arts organizations have put forth statements of solidarity. VCCA has been slow to put out its own public statement. We admit it’s a struggle to find words and actions that feel adequate and worth broadcasting. But we do want you to know where we stand and where we are heading.
It’s a fact that VCCA’s staff, board, and Fellows have been predominantly white over the course of our nearly fifty-year history. The number of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) Fellows who come to VCCA has been increasing over recent years, but we have significantly more work to do. We believe our strides forward in this area are connected to initiatives to create fully-funded fellowship opportunities to serve groups of artists who have been historically underrepresented – both at our residencies in Virginia and France, and within the larger art landscape. We are committed to establishing more of those opportunities.
We realize that for some potential Fellows, the American South may seem like a less-than-hospitable place. Virginia has its own troubled legacy with respect to race, evident in the protests playing out in Richmond as we write this. Black lives matter, and VCCA has strived for decades to be a welcoming place for BIPOC artists. During this crucially important time, we want to reiterate and recommit to one of our guiding, foundational principles to all BIPOC artists worldwide: You’re wanted here. Please come create here. You’re welcome here.
Although VCCA is temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are making plans to reopen in 2021, and we invite BIPOC artists to apply for our fully-endowed fellowships, including several that have been established specifically to support BIPOC artists:
- Anne Spencer Fellowship
- Jacques and Natasha Gelman Fellowship
- Alonzo Davis Fellowship
- Sarah Stanley Gordon Edwards and Archibald Cason Edwards Endowment for Fellowship
VCCA is striving to improve its racial and ethnic representation, not only among its Fellows but among its board and staff. To further that end, in 2019 we undertook a strategic planning process and made increasing diversity one of its core tenets. While we still have work to do, we have begun to make progress toward our goal of greater inclusivity. In the past year we have increased the diversity of our staff, and our board Nominating Committee has put forward a slate that will significantly increase the racial and ethnic diversity of our board. Unfortunately, when the pandemic hit we were forced to postpone our March plans for a board and staff training with the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities. We are now in the process of exploring a virtual alternative.
VCCA is using the current pause in our normal operations to examine all aspects of our organization closely. We’re thinking hard about what actions we can take to move us deliberately and swiftly closer to our ideals.
Quinn Feldmann Graeff
President, Board of Directors
June 17, 2020