Toward an Anti-Racist Art Ecosystem

Wednesday, Nov 3, 2021

On November 3, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) will host the second of a three-part series of virtual discussions aiming to identify ways of making the art and design world more inclusive and equitable. This discussion, part of Toward an Anti-Racist Art Ecosystem, will shift the dialogue from a local to a national perspective, and will feature a panel of nationally-renowned experts Brendan Fernandes (artist), Allison Glenn (senior curator and director of public art at Contemporary Arts Museum Houston), Nancy Marie Mithlo, PhD (professor, Department of Gender Studies, and core faculty member, American Indian Studies Interdepartmental Program, UCLA) and Deana Haggag (program officer in arts and culture at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation), and will be moderated by SAIC Assistant Professor Sampada Aranke.

“These are precisely the kinds of conversations we should be having––ones generated by cultural leaders who work tirelessly to make sure art is at the center of advances for more egalitarian forms of community and society,” said Sampada Aranke, moderator of the discussion and assistant professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. “Our goal with this conversation is to offer key and candid insights about the inner workings of institutional work, what kinds of practices inspire us, and where and how we source our energy to keep going, and I am so incredibly excited to be a part of this project.”

Following the first panel discussion that focused on Chicago’s history of segregation within the arts community, the second installment of Toward an Anti Racist Art Ecosystem will focus on the national impact of racism and segregation in the arts. The conversation will also explore bright spots in anti-racist work that can serve as guiding lights and how we can work together to remove barriers to entry for Black, Indigenous and people of color. The discussion will take place on Wednesday, November 3, from 6:00 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. CT.

This series of community dialogues is among the direct outgrowths of the work being done by SAIC’s Anti-Racism Committee, formed in the summer of 2020 to support and extend the work of the School’s existing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts and catalyze DEI and

anti-racist work throughout all areas of SAIC. The third installment of the series will convene international art and design leaders in the spring of 2022 to continue broadening the conversation.

Co-chaired by Interim Dean of Graduate Studies Delinda Collier and Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for Academic Affairs Jefferson Pinder, SAIC’s Anti-Racism Committee’s charge includes identifying and implementing initiatives that will bring meaningful change in the short term as well as establishing a comprehensive, long-range plan to substantially improve the School’s operations and the lived experience of all of its community members.

Toward an Anti-Racist Art Ecosystem conference series is free and open to the public. The series is generously supported by Hindman Auctions. Advance registration is required, and details can be found here.


About the Moderator and Panelists

Sampada Aranke, PhD (moderator) is an Assistant Professor in the Art History, Theory, Criticism department at SAIC. Her research interests include performance theories of embodiment, visual culture, and Black cultural and aesthetic theory. Her work has been published in e-flux, Artforum, Art Journal, ASAP/J, October, and Trans-Scripts: An Interdisciplinary Online Journal in the Humanities and Social Sciences at University of California, Irvine. She's currently working on her book manuscript entitled Death's Futurity: The Visual Life of Black Power.

Brendan Fernandes is an internationally recognized Canadian artist working at the intersection of dance and visual arts. Born in Nairobi, Kenya and currently based out of Chicago, Brendan’s projects address issues of race, queer culture, migration, protest, and other forms of collective movement. Always seeking to create new spaces and new forms of agency, and always rooted in collaboration and fostering solidarity.

Allison Glenn is a curator and writer deeply invested in working closely with artists to develop ideas, artworks, and exhibitions that respond to and transform our understanding of the world. Glenn is senior curator and director of public art at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. Recently, she received substantial critical and community praise for her curatorial work in the groundbreaking exhibition at the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky titled Promise, Witness, Remembrance., an exhibition that reflected on the life of Breonna Taylor, centered on her portrait painted by Amy Sherald.

Deana Haggag is a program officer in arts and culture at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Prior to joining the foundation in May 2021, she was the president and chief executive officer of United States Artists (USA), a national arts funding organization. Before joining USA, she was the executive director of The Contemporary, a nomadic and non-collecting art museum in Baltimore, for four years.

Nancy Marie Mithlo (Chiricahua Apache) is a professor of gender studies and core faculty with the American Indian Studies Interdepartmental program at the University of California, Los Angeles. Mithlo’s curatorial work has resulted in nine exhibits at the Venice Biennale. She has taught at the University of New Mexico, the Institute of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe Community College, Smith College, California Institute of the Arts, Occidental College, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her 2020 book Knowing Native Arts was published by the University of Nebraska Press.

Full biographies and headshots are available here.

About the School of the Art Institute of Chicago

For more than 150 years, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) has been a leader in educating the world’s most influential artists, designers, and scholars. Located in downtown Chicago with a fine arts graduate program ranked number two in the nation by U.S. News and World Report, SAIC provides an interdisciplinary approach to art and design as well as world-class resources, including the Art Institute of Chicago museum, on-campus galleries, and state-of-the-art facilities. SAIC’s undergraduate, graduate, and post-baccalaureate students have the freedom to take risks and create the bold ideas that transform Chicago and the world—as seen through notable alumni and faculty such as Michelle Grabner, David Sedaris, Elizabeth Murray, Richard Hunt, Georgia O’Keeffe, Cynthia Rowley, Nick Cave, Jeff Koons, and LeRoy Neiman.