Black Lives Matter statement and resources

Current project Featured 2020

Resources, education, donations and links for Black Lives Matter and associated projects

Black Lives Matter

Artquest stands in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement (including Black Lives Matter UK) in calling for an end to racist practices, systems and behaviours, both inside and outside of the arts.

Living in a racist country – one that generally refuses to acknowledge or discuss its colonial legacy, even as its commemorative statues are torn down, and as the non-white migrants invited here to work are disproportionately affected by Covid-19 – it’s not enough to be simply not racist. We need to be anti-racist in all the projects and programmes we deliver, and in the way we deliver them. We are in an ongoing process of educating ourselves to work out how to dismantle our part of the racist and inequitable structures we inevitably operate within, and invite you to contact us to add to these resources.

Whatever change is needed white people have to play a significant part. For too long the emotional labour of people of colour has been expected to eliminate racism while ‘educating’ white people in the behaviours they themselves perpetuate. The arts are particularly susceptible to this, with exhibitions and programmes organised to perform anti-racism often initiated by funding from former colonial-era corporations while leaving the structures that maintain power intact.

While we already have in place some structures and programmes aimed at a more equitable art world, we know we have more to do, particularly regarding ethnic diversity. For some years our programme has been more focussed on supporting people from lower socio-economic and working class backgrounds, another known inequity in the arts. Since 2012 our AWP Internships programme has included 75% people who were the first in their family to attend higher education, 60% who received a means-tested bursary when at university, 25% identifying as non-white and 90% identifying as female.

We have already:

  • Created blind selection processes to choose artists for most of our projects, trying to remove bias from our panels by removing identifying information from selection, and used these since 2018. (Some projects that require shortlisting via website links cannot be selected without some identifying information shown to selectors.)
  • Solicited expressions of interest from our edge network for more diverse freelance colleagues, selection panel judges and Advisory Group members this year.
  • Commissioned research to build on our AWP Internships programme to understand the potential for digital / blended models of internships in light of changed working patterns due to Covid-19, taking into account digital inequalities and how to mitigate these.

We will:

  • Publish anonymised data on the diversity of our freelance colleagues (including selection panel judges and the artists who are selected), staff, and Advisory Group, and actively seek to increase diversity of the people we work with.
  • Continue to develop programmes delayed by Covid-19 that address our EQUITY theme for 2020, with more focus on decolonising our programme and ensuring representation of our community.
  • Develop and expand our existing research residency to address the theme of EQUITY in light of Black Lives Matter.
  • Analyse existing projects to identify and remove barriers to applicants from non-white backgrounds.

It’s easy to call for the end of something and leave it at that. Drawing on our processes to eliminate barriers for people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, those with caring responsibilities, women, and people from working class backgrounds, we are determined to change our working practices, to be anti-racist, and to work for equity and social justice in the arts and beyond.

Remember that there is still a pandemic so if you are going to a protest, practice social distancing where possible and wear a face covering. Do not attend a protest if you are experiencing any Covid-19 symptoms – fever, persistent coughing, or a change or lack of taste and/or smell.

“The problem is that white people see racism as conscious hate, when racism is bigger than that. Racism is a complex system of social and political levers and pulleys set up generations ago to continue working on the behalf of whites at other people’s expense, whether whites know/like it or not. Racism is an insidious cultural disease. It is so insidious that it doesn’t care if you are a white person who likes black people; it’s still going to find a way to infect how you deal with people who don’t look like you. Yes, racism looks like hate, but hate is just one manifestation. Privilege is another. Access is another. Ignorance is another. Apathy is another. And so on. So while I agree with people who say no one is born racist, it remains a powerful system that we’re immediately born into. It’s like being born into air: you take it in as soon as you breathe. It’s not a cold that you can get over. There is no anti-racist certification class. It’s a set of socioeconomic traps and cultural values that are fired up every time we interact with the world. It is a thing you have to keep scooping out of the boat of your life to keep from drowning in it. I know it’s hard work, but it’s the price you pay for owning everything.”

Scott Woods via Good Reads

Resources, links and action on anti-racism

Funding for artists focussed on BLM

  • Black Artists Grant: The Black Artists Grant, organised by Creative Debuts, is a number of £500 grants given out no-strings attached every month to a black artist in the UK
  • Hastings Museum & Art Gallery: To amplify and support the work of Black and ethnic minority creators, Hastings Museum & Art Gallery will commission open responses from local Black and minority ethnic people to George Floyd’s killing and the Black Lives Matter movement

Compiled by Nandini Mitra, this is a huge list of practical actions that you can take in support of Black Lives Matter, from petitions to fundraising to protests (via Cambridge Student Union BME Campaign).

Donations

Although the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown has decimated artists incomes, if you are able please consider donating to funds in support of:

Resources, research and projects on anti-racism

Petitions

Anti-racism and decolonising the arts

The history of UK slavery

Arts organisations resource pages and projects

Numerous arts organisations have prepared pages of resources for reading, donations and action – we present a non-exhaustive list of these to avoid duplication and promote their activity.

Racial equity in the arts

For 2020 our programme theme is EQUITY, (2018 was SPACE, and 2019 was WORK – read more in our Almanack). We had already begun collecting research to educate ourselves in developing projects, articles and interventions, before the Covid-19 emergency necessitated massive changes to our programme. Our focus was wider than racism on all systemic inequities and how artists can help tackle these via practice. We and publish some of these links here.

Socio-economic inequity

Cultural inequity

Colonialism

Arts sponsorship, funding and structures

Social change

Gender inequity

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