Related Programming

PAST PROGRAMS

 

A Fragment from Tenochtitlan: Remembering the 500th Anniversary of the Fall of the Aztec Capital
Tuesday, October 5, 2021, 2:30pm-4:00pm

The Davis Museum recently acquired a rare example of Aztec art: a stone block with carved images of feathered serpents that once formed part of a ceremonial building. On the 500th anniversary of the fall of Tenochtitlan to the Spanish invaders, join Senior Lecturer and Adjunct Curator James Oles and three leading scholars of the ancient Americas--Barbara Mundy (Tulane University), Megan O’Neil (Emory University), and Ellen Hoobler ‘98 (Walters Art Museum). This distinguished panel will speak about the history and significance of the sculpture: from its original placement and its first documented appearance in Los Angeles in the 1940s to its role in the permanent collection of the Davis.

Co-sponsored by the Wellesley College Art Department

 

When We Gather Outdoor Film Screening
Friday, September 17, 2021, 7:00pm-8:45pm

Co-produced and hosted by Dr. Nikki A. Greene, Associate Professor of Art History at Wellesley College, When We Gather celebrates the women who have played an elemental role in the progress of the United States and offers a call to create a path forward for the leaders of the future. The film was conceived by renowned artist María Magdalena Campos-Pons, in collaboration with LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs and Okwui Okpokwasili, and Wellesley College Art Department Academic Administrator Laura Suárez Rodríguez served as Associate Producer. Find out more here. Sign up for the When We Gather newsletter here.

To celebrate the beginning of the Fall semester, this event is especially for the Wellesley campus community. Make this your Davis! Enjoy art making and two back-to-back film screenings of When We Gather. First-years and sophomores will take home a limited edition, student-designed tote bag!

 

Decolonizing the Academic Art Museum: Goals and Strategies 
Presented by: Amanda Gilvin, Ph.D.
Sonja Novak Koerner '51 Senior Curator of Collections and Assistant Director of Curatorial Affairs
Tuesday, April 13 2021, 4:00pm-5:30pm

Colleges and universities continue to reckon with injustices in their histories and ongoing discriminatory practices, which are often symbolized by monuments and named buildings on their campuses. Simultaneously, museums of all kinds are being held accountable for exclusionary practices, opaque finances, exploitative labor practices, and colonial histories. Museums that are part of colleges and universities have unique challenges--and opportunities--during this important moment of activism, as people who visit museums and people who work at museums seek anti-racist, equitable, decolonial institutions that pursue social change, rather than uphold an unjust status quo. This panel convenes curators to discuss specific decolonial strategies that academic museums can pursue.

Co-sponsored by the Wellesley College Art Department

Panelists: 

  • La Tanya Autry,  Cultural Organizer, Co-producer of Museums Are Not Neutral, Founder of The Black Liberation Center, and Independent Curator
  • Gina Borromeo, Chief Curator & Curator of Ancient Art, RISD Museum, Rhode Island School of Design 
  • Jan Howard, Houghton P. Metcalf Jr. Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs, Rhode Island School of Design 
  • Rosario Granados, Marilynn Thoma Associate Curator, Art of the Spanish Americas, Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin 
  • Jami Powell, Associate Curator of Native American Art, Hood Museum, Dartmouth College

 

Presidential Scholars Meeting
April 20th, 2021 

The Davis’ DEAI group conducted a research workshop in collaboration with Wellesley College’s Presidential Scholars program. Davis staff introduced our DEAI work and shared our four main DEAI goals with the Presidential Scholars before opening up the floor for questions and discussion. This fruitful collaboration provided insight into museum DEAI practices for the Presidential Scholars, while giving the Davis staff important feedback on our goals and future planning. 

 

Friends of Art January 2021 National Committee Meeting
DEAI/Young Alumnae Initiative
January 28, 2021

Members of the Friends of Art (FOA) National and Regional Committees met in January 2021 to begin work on an initiative to increase diversity and involvement of young alumnae in both the FOA committees and the membership base.

The initiative kicked off with a series of focus groups with current students, recent alumnae, and alumnae working in art related fields. Focus groups were led by FOA NC members.

After review and analysis of the focus group interviews, three subcommittees were created to focus on three specific areas identified as central to the goals of the initiative.

FOA Subcommittees & Goals

MISSION SUBCOMMITTEE

○  Redefine the FOA Mission and Name
○ Embed Diversity, Equity, Accessibility and Inclusion in this work and in its outcome

DIVERSITY SUBCOMMITTEE

○  Strategize on how to attract young and diverse alums

BUILD COMMUNITY SUBCOMMITTEE

○  Broaden event focus and audience
○  Career support/mentorship

 

Artistic Responses to Infectious Disease from the Davis Museum Collections
January 25, 2021  

Dr. Heather Hughes, the Davis Museum’s Kemper Assistant Curator of Academic Affairs and Exhibitions, will lead students in a discussion of objects from the collection that reflect the impact of infectious diseases on art and society, from the Renaissance to today. While practicing the skills of close-looking and visual analysis, students will gain an appreciation for the role of visual art in processing trauma and social upheaval. To emphasize historical perspectives and the recurrent nature of epidemics, the discussion will include works that relate to a range of diseases, such as bubonic plague, syphilis, cholera, and HIV/AIDS. The seminar will be open to students of all years and majors. Prior experience in art history is not required, and we especially encourage participation from science and social science majors.

 

Michael Rakowitz, Museums, and Decolonial Justice
January 19, 2021 

Thieves stole nearly 15,000 artworks from the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad following the US invasion in 2003. Artist Michael Rakowitz commemorates this loss in his ongoing project, The invisible enemy should not exist, for which he recreates the missing artworks out of Middle Eastern everyday materials (like commercial packaging and newspapers) exported to the United States. During this seminar offered by Dr. Nicole Berlin, Assistant Curator of Collections, we will analyze and discuss five artworks from The invisible enemy series now at the Davis Museum. How can Rakowitz’s work inform the way museums collect, steward, and display ancient Near Eastern art? And, more broadly, what can this case study reveal about the role of race, war, and colonialism in contemporary museum practice? The Davis looks forward to this conversation with the Wellesley community as part of our ongoing effort to decolonize the museum.

 

January Project 2021 Seminars
Graphic Resistance: Print, Protest, and Collecting
January 14, 2021 

Over the past decade, the Davis Museum has built a collection of prints and posters—both historical and contemporary—that directly engage with political and social issues. The collection reveals just how diverse the aims and approaches of activist art can be: while some works are made and sold to fund specific causes, others are intended as interventions into public space; some were carried at rallies, and others were circulated through collective portfolios and gallery sales. No matter their means of distribution, they were produced to challenge abuses of power, to bear witness, to issue calls to direct action. Offered by Lisa Fischman, Ruth Gordon Shapiro ’37 Director of the Davis Museum, this 90- minute micro-seminar considers the print medium’s role in relation to political resistance and dissent. Working with examples in the Davis Museum’s collections, and using the contemporary US political landscape as an orienting context, this micro-seminar will look at historical examples of protest in print and follow the trajectory forward to today. How do artists manifest the activist impulse in print? Do their tactics succeed? What changes when these works enter a museum’s collection?

 

Decolonial Theory Reading Sessions
Presented by: Amanda Gilvin, Ph.D.
Sonja Novak Koerner '51 Senior Curator of Collections and Assistant Director of Curatorial Affairs

During the Fall 2020 semester, the Davis introduced a series of drop-in discussions on decolonial theory related to museums.  All Wellesley students, faculty, and staff were invited to attend, and community members were welcome to attend any session according to interest and availability. At each meeting, attendees discussed the readings and real-world case studies in break-out groups and as a full group.

 

Decolonial Theory Reading Session 1:
October 7, 2020 •  11:30am-12:30pm

Readings: 
Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism. (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2000 [1950]): pages 31-46, 65-73.

Yesomi Umolu, “On the Limits of Care and Knowledge: 15 Points Museums Must Understand to Dismantle Structural Injustice,” Artnet News, June 25, 2020

Discussion Questions: 
The etymology of the word “curator” traces to the Latin word cūrāre, which means “to take care of.” In 1950, Césaire stated that “In the scales of knowledge all the museums in the world will never weigh so much as one spark of human sympathy.” More recently, Umolu has challenged museums to expand their conceptions of caretaking to include empathy and care for all people, not just those with access to power and capital.

  1. What are connections between museums and violence?

  2. What is the relationship of care to decolonization and anti-racism, especially in museum work?

  3. What are specific ways that museums can show care for people?

  4. What does it look like to prioritize care for people equal to or above care for objects and ideas?

  5. Can you bring an example (historical, contemporary, or imagined) of how a museum can show care for Black people, people of color, LGBTQ people, and/or disabled people?

 

Decolonial Theory Reading Session 2: 
Case Study: African Art in French Museums
November 11, 2020 •  11:30am

Readings: 
Felwine Sarr and Bénédicte Savoy, The Restitution of African Cultural Heritage: Toward a New Relational Ethics, N°2018-26, November 2018 (Translated into English by Drew S. Burk). Paris: Ministère de la Culture de la France: 1-26, 43-62.

Constant Méheut and Antonella Francini, “France’s Colonial Legacy Is Being Judged in Trial Over African Art,” The New York Times September 30, 2020, Updated October 20, 2020 

Discussion Questions: 
Senegalese philosopher, economist, and musician Felwine Sarr and French art historian Benedicte Savoy propose the following procedures for researching and restituting African artworks held in French governmental collections. What parts of this proposal would you encourage American museums to adopt, and why? Do you have alternative approaches to decolonial research and stewardship of African artworks in United States museum collections that you would propose? 

1. Restitution in a swift and thorough manner without any supplementary research regarding their provenance or origins, of any objects taken by force or presumed to be acquired through inequitable conditions:

a. through military aggressions (spoils, trophies), whether these pieces went on directly to France or whether passed through the international art market before then finding their way to being integrated into collections.

b. by way of military personnel or active administrators on the continent during the colonial period (1885-1960) or by their descendants.

c. through scientific expeditions prior to 1960.

d. certain museums continue to house pieces of African origin which were initially loaned out to them by African institutions for exhibits or campaigns of restoration, but which were never given back. These objects should be swiftly returned to their institutions of origin.

2. Complementary Research for pieces that entered into the museums after 1960 and those received as gifts or donations to the museum where we have a good reason to believe the pieces left African soil before 1960 (but which remained within families for several generations). In cases where research is not able to ascertain the initial circumstances around their acquisition during the colonial period, the pieces requested can be restituted based on justification of their interest by the country making the request.

3. Preservation within the French collections of pieces of African art objects and cultural heritage where the following has been established:

a. after confirmation that a freely consented to and documented transaction took place that was agreed upon and equitable.

b. that the pieces acquired conformed to the necessary rigor and careful monitoring of the apparatus in place on the art market after the application of the UNESCO Convention of 1970, in other words, without “taking any ethical risks”. Gifts from foreign Heads of State to French governments remain as acquisitions for France except in cases where the heads of state concerned have been ruled against for the misuse of public funds.

 

Decolonial Theory Reading Session 3: 
Decolonial Knowledge for New and Old Institutions 
December 9, 2020 • 10am-11am 

Readings: 
Coco Fusco, “We Need New Institutions, Not New Art,” HyperAllergic (October 26, 2020) 

Shahid Vawda, “Museums and the Epistemology of Injustice: From Colonialism to Decoloniality,” Museum International 71 (2019): 1-2, 72-79. 

Discussion Questions: 
South African Anthropologist Shahid Vawda argues that “Museums, which are imbricated in colonialism, are sites of deep epistemological unjust practices and clashes, and simultaneously the space to address those injustices.” Cuban-American interdisciplinary artist, writer, and curator Coco Fusco cites a long history of disingenuous claims to change by art institutions in the United States, and calls for new institutions. 

Can museums re-make themselves into new institutions by “taking the concept of ‘sharing’ seriously,” as Vawda describes it on page 78? What are specific strategies that you propose for museums to 1.) resist colonial depictions of history, 2.) become more collaborative, and 3.) to incorporate more voices into curatorial and interpretive work?

 

Decolonial Theory Reading Session 4:
October’s Questionnaire on Decolonization
March 3, 2021 •  11:30-12:30

Readings: 
Huey Copeland, Hal Foster, David Joselit, and Pamela Lee, “A Questionnaire on Decolonization,” October 174 (Fall 2020): p.3.

Andrea Carlson, “A Questionnaire on Decolonization,” October 174 (Fall 2020): 17-19. 

Steven Nelson, “A Questionnaire on Decolonization,” October 174 (Fall 2020): 89. 

Discussion Questions: 
The journal October recently conducted a questionnaire that was distributed to artists, scholars, and critics. How would you answer this questionnaire? Do the responses from artist Andrea Carlson and art historian Steven Nelson influence your own answers? 

  1. What does the term decolonize mean to you in your work in activism, criticism, art, and/or scholarship? 
  2. Why has it come to play such an urgent role in the neoliberal West? 
  3. How can we link it historically with the political history of decolonization,and how does it work to translate postcolonial theory into a critique of the neocolonial contemporary art world?

 

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