5 Ways To Support Artists of Color
It’s Easier Than You Think To Uplift One Another In This Crucial Time
By Thea Fiore-Bloom, Ph.D.
The Black Lives Matter movement brings us once again to a threshold in history.
We now stand in front of a door that could lead us to needed transformation in all sectors of society — including the arts.
But that door to a more equitable future for artists of color isn’t truly open yet.
Because as African-American journalist Tania Inniss rightly notes, there’s still a dearth of Black and Brown artist’s presence in major auctions, museums, galleries, and art history curricula today.
But is there anything we do to help give that door to equality for artists of color a big old collective shove?
Inniss and other authors, artists, and activists I interviewed for this post, made me aware, it’s easier than I thought to take actions that will help.
So here are just five example actions (out of possibly five hundred) that we can take to do our part to uplift artists of color, thereby helping to better society as a whole at this crucial juncture. Ready?
5 Actions You Can Take To Support Artists of Color
1. Support Artists of Color on Social Media
Do you already follow many artists of color on social media?
“Keep up to date with their progress and [when COVID is over] go to their shows so you can ask them about their process and motivations,” writes Inniss.
“Something as simple as showing an interest in them [online now] can be the motivation an artist needs to keep pushing and breaking barriers.”
2. Be Colorbold, Not Colorblind
African-American CEO and former chairwoman of Dreamworks, Mellody Hobson tells us in her Ted Talk that if we want to be part of the solution and not part of the problem, saying we’re color blind and leaving it at that won’t cut it.
We need to take the steps necessary to become color brave.
Artist, coach and Pass The Brush founder, Rachel Juanita Bellamy wisely applies Hobson’s call for courage to our world of the arts.
“Art is something that is within every person, in every culture, yet when we look at our art industry as it is today, it is 99% White. It’s not that people of color aren’t here, we are just being marginalized or ignored,” says Bellamy.
How can we correct this?
Bellamy suggests we make an effort to hire artists of color to work in our own art business.
“Can you make at least one of the ten teachers you are going to select for your next online summit to be a person of color?” asks Bellamy.
How about that illustrator who is going to animate your logo, or the next branding consultant, product designer, or the next guest blogger you take on, etc.?
Don’t know where to find artists of color to hire?
Jacinda Walker, chair of AIGA’s Diversity and Inclusion task force, suggests: “Try Jopwell, a platform dedicated to connecting companies with candidates from underrepresented groups. You can also list jobs on Organization of Black Designers, Blavity, Hispanic-Jobs.com, or Remezcla.“
3. Celebrate and Explore New Artists of Color in Your Pins
You may be familiar with the work of Betye Saar or her daughters Lesley and Alison. But have you seen the mindblowing quilts of textile artist Bisa Butler?
Or have you laid eyes on the installations of Renée Stout or Whitfield Lovell? What about the assemblage work in the Smithsonian of James Hampton?
Maybe you’ve experienced the work of Sam Gilliam, Lorna Simpson, or Alma Thomas?
Why not explore artists of color on Pinterest and create boards devoted to them to share with others?
There is so much we all have not seen.
Check out Maile Castaneda’s jaw-dropping Pinterest board of some of Cuba’s finest painters.
Find new inspiring artists on Black Art in America, or check out 10 Exemplary Women Artists in India You Need to Know About.
Look at the modern work of up and coming Pacific Islander Artists here, contemporary Native American art here, or contemporary Chinese women artists over here.
Or maybe pop on over to my Pinterest board of the stellar work of African- American painter Tamara Natalie Madden (see “Black Queen” above.)
4. Buy Art Made By Artists of Color
“Another great way to get involved is to buy Black art,” writes Inniss.
“I know that it can be a little daunting,” writes Inniss. “Not everyone can drop money on art like Diddy or Jay-Z, but you can start small by buying a print for as little as $10 or save up to buy something moderately more expensive.”
5. Let Museums Know You’re Watching
Almost all of the above action steps are fairly easy for introverted artists like us to do, but author and museum program manager, Brittany Thurman tasks us with one that takes some more moxie — if you’re up for it.
“One thing that’s needed (and is happening a little more) is for museums to be called out, ” said Thurman. “People can write to museum directors and curators, either via snail mail, or a more public format (like an online review.)”
“Ask museums which Black artists have had solo exhibitions in their museums? Or when was the last exhibition that featured a Black artist? When will the next one be held?” said Thurman.
“Understand that as an individual letter writer you may be ignored (I’ve seen it!) But one thing that can’t be ignored are these things happening en masse,” said Thurman.
“You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.” — Rumi