The Black Lives Matter movement and demonstrations—both in Richmond and around the country—have brought necessary conversations about systemic racism to the forefront.
VCUarts acknowledges that instances of systemic racism have negatively affected students, faculty, and staff, and the school is committed to rebuilding that trust. As the fall semester begins, VCUarts has committed to the following actions, to be realized during the coming year:
- Faculty and staff will complete critique training and enroll in workshops on unconscious bias and microaggressions through our regular diversity and inclusion programming. Participation will be considered during merit evaluations.
- Students in all VCUarts courses will have an opportunity to provide anonymous midterm course feedback, including feedback on how an inclusive and equitable classroom or studio climate has been sustained, and in what ways that environment could be improved.
- After members of the curriculum committee spent the summer engaged in preliminary conversations about decolonizing the curriculum, members of the Faculty Advisory Committee will move forward with a school-wide commitment. The committee will consult with members of the curriculum and diversity committees; facilitate conversation in their departments; and organize virtual town-hall meetings where faculty, staff and students can exchange ideas and collaboratively identify specific changes to course content and academic curricula.
VCUarts will also offer a number of programs throughout the year aimed at diversity, equity and inclusion.
In addition, sculpture alumnus Aaron Douglas Estrada (MFA ’20) and 3BCollective recently installed a Black Lives Matter mural behind the Fine Arts Building, which he calls “a first step towards committing to the difficult, yet urgent, work that everyone at VCU should be doing.”
3B Collective recently installed a similar mural at the University of California, San Diego, and has proposed Black Lives Matter murals at other institutions with ties to the collective’s members. The team that installed the mural at VCUarts included Estrada, Painting + Printmaking alumni LaRissa Rogers (BFA ’19) and Luis Vasquez La Roche (MFA ’20), and Sculpture + Extended Media graduates Ruben Rodriguez (MFA ’20) and Cielo Hernandez (BFA ’19).
“We responded to the call to action because we believe in being anti-racist,” Estrada says. “Furthermore, we have also been influenced by Black culture. It is a disservice to our communities and us to not do anything. Black culture and people should be acknowledged and respected, as a keystone in the growth of this country.”
The initiatives VCUarts is pursuing are only the first steps of actualizing change. A strategic planning process revealed the need to look critically at the school’s policies and processes, culture, values and community—from curriculum to student recruitment, staff development and faculty retention.