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Franklin Sirmans, Director of Pérez Art Museum Miami, in Conversation with Walton Family Foundation’s Daphne Moore at ComNet17

ComNet17 Keynote

Franklin Sirmans, Director of the Pérez Art Museum Miami, sat down with Walton Family Foundation’s Daphne Moore at ComNet17 to talk about the intersection of art and activism.

Below, watch the video, listen to the podcast, or read the transcript.

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Transcript

A lightly edited transcript of this session follows.

Sande Smith

Good morning everyone. I’m so happy to see you here. I’m Sande Smith, Director of Communications with the California Wellness Foundation. Yay. I just want to say that one of the things that I want you all to know is that we have two offices. One is in San Francisco, that’s where I’m based. And we have an office that was in Woodland Hills until Monday. And as of Monday it is in downtown Los Angeles, across from the public library. And just six miles from LACMA, where our guest speaker used to work.

We’ve been talking a lot about meaning and words and what do words mean and I just want to point out that I’ve been reflecting on the fact that even though words may have a meaning, that when you look it up in the dictionary, they don’t really mean as much until we talk about what those words mean. Meaning is made as we work together to make the meaning.

And we have today a speaker who is redefining what a museum means. I had a chance to go last night to see this incredible space. The Perez Art Museum, and it truly, it is a huge building, beautiful building that can survive a Hurricane five winds. And when people’s electricity went out here in Miami, Franklin opened the doors to the museum so that people who didn’t have electricity could come in and it was almost like a museum ark. Right? It is a space where there are, the community is welcome. It is, the museum is a town square space for interactions. A bridge between young people and police. They’ve invited in young people to talk to police to deal with trauma, to have art be a space for creation and bridge building.

Franklin is considered, I learned, a rockstar in the art world. Yet he’s down to earth. He’s making a place where contemporary art is relevant and creating a space for contemporary issues. Without further ado, I want to bring Daphne Moore who is Communication Director with the Walton Family Foundation, and Franklin Sirmans to the stage.

Daphne Moore

Franklin, thank you for being here with us tonight. Or tonight, this afternoon, sorry.

Franklin Sirmans

These rooms make us feel like we’re at night.

It does feel like it’s night time.

It’s like a casino.

Yeah. So just, first, to Sean and the ComNet team, and the board, this conference seems to get better I think every single year. And I’m not sure how you are going to top this year, but San Francisco I think is an excellent start. So, great.

So, a bit more about you. Born in Queens. Raised kind of upstate. Your undergraduate degree is in art history and english. And you’ve been at the Perez for …

Almost two years.

Almost two years. Came from LACKMA, Stetson Houston and New Orleans. Also known as a rockstar and someone who is really taking the pretense out of art and accessing art. So I have to say, when I first discussed this opportunity with Sean, I was thrilled because one, you are another example of someone with an english degree who has managed to have a productive career.

It took a moment.

Way to go, way to go. It’s inspiring. I too have an english degree. But second, the foundation that I work for, the Walton Family Foundation, in addition to investments in K12 education and conservation, we’ve really seen just the transformative power of art on a community and with individuals. And so we’ve had the incredible fortune to work with Alice Walton, who is just a pioneering philanthropist, and it’s her vision that’s really guided our efforts to expand access to art. And it’s not just the physical access, it’s the education. It’s the interpretation. And so the anchor for this, and you’ve experienced this place as well, is Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. And when you and I first talked I shared this experience that I had had with both our leadership team and my comm’s team, and I want to just recap that a little bit.

But we spent about 90 minutes, as a team, with three works of art. That was the lead-in to a strategy session with flip charts and post it notes. And what we found as we went through this experience, one piece we sat and we kept moving our position. We were sitting on little stools and we kept moving around and it showed us how when we look at things from a different point of view it changes our perspective. We spent some more time trying to figure out what this little man holding the bag was thinking about. And we came up with all sorts of things. We said, he’s an alcoholic, he’s just got a bad medical diagnosis. And the answer was that we didn’t know. And we were projecting our own experiences and fears on this piece of art. But the last piece, and we have a slide here, and I love this. This is about 50 pounds of green cellophane wrapped candy. It is Félix González-Torres, it’s an untitled work.

And so as you can see, we literally dug-in to this piece. And we felt it, we dug, we tasted and then we sat and we wrote what we were thinking and we wrote a poem as well. And this is some of our communications team involved here. And then we moved to a planning meeting and I think everyone, our minds were just opened. It was such an amazing feeling. And we really had a productive strategy session.

But when I did this with our leadership team, the person who took the most away from it, was our head accountant. Our finance guy. And he’s probably the one that was scratching his head the most at the beginning of this experience. And so it really speaks to me as to how we can all, we all have the capacity to appreciate and be inspired by art. And I think that’s what we’re going to talk about today and just some of the conversations that art drives.

You started your career also in finance.

Yeah.

Tell us about that transition.

Okay. There’s so many good strands to pick up on, I’ll just first can’t get the image out of my head, so shout out to Félix González-Torres, who is no longer with us, but of course lived here in Miami. A big part of our art history is in his work.

I also just want to say thank you to Sean and to the Communications Network and Sandy, and a big thank you to my colleague, Christina Boomer Vazquez, who is on the host committee. And is our Director of Marketing and Public Engagement. And also Andrew Sherry, who is representing the Knight Foundation and who’s also a great partner of ours. So it’s awesome to be here, and good to be here with you Daphne and in this conversation.

So many different points of departure that you mentioned. Where shall we begin? The last part?

So tell us about, and you shared this with Sean and I, kind of how you made the decision to move into a career in the arts.

Well, career right? My father laughed when I said there was career.

Mine did too when I majored in English.

Right? I mean I worked in finance because I came home from college in 1991, from Wesleyan University and I had a little brother and I had a step-mother. And the little brother was about nine months old so, it wasn’t going to work to stay at home. So I got a job at Shearson Lehman American Express and got an apartment relatively fast. The idea of working in the space of museums, for me, came later. And I think in many ways I was probably thinking about our english degree and I was thinking about the art history aspect of what I also studied, as being this template for writing. And communications would be an easy way, or a relatively available avenue to write. And to have a gig or something that would allow you to continue to do that.

And so I guess it was really about recognizing the fact that in the early 1990’s, to be a writer in New York City and to pay rent in New York City, was relatively tough. And so the idea of having a day job, if you will, was something that had to be considered. And the museum was really that kind of backdrop. I was writing reviews for Publisher’s Weekly, I was writing reviews for like every single Brooklyn rag you could possibly think of that was kind of considered new or somehow related to hip hop. These things, in a way, consolidated around a magazine like Vibe. But there were many things that led to that.

So for me it was just a necessity. And the museum provided a way to keep thinking about writing and to even do writing while having the kind of backdrop that also took into consideration images. And to me it’s just always been about how do we put images together with text? Which is something that we all do in some way.

Absolutely, and I think that we all, in communications, a picture is worth a thousand words. And fortunately, you can’t always get a thousand words in a tweet or a blog post or something like that so it’s certainly this mashup that you describe.

Yeah. For writing, in that time period, I was writing reviews for Time Out in New York and I remember when it went from 500 to 350 to 250. And all of this coincided with new technology and obviously we had to figure out a way to morph along with it.

Absolutely, so this morning, Sean interviewed Michele Norris and they talked about the Race Card Project that she has launched and really talked about a lot of the tough conversations that are going on in our country right now. I mean, the museum, it’s actually in your mission to facilitate, I have to read this, to facilitate catalytic engagement with the most progressive visual arts of our time. But you are facilitating these tough conversations. Can you tell us how you’re doing that, and how art serves as a launch pad?

Well I think one of the reasons why I was attracted to art history in the first place was the fact that there’s this space, there’s a space to make considerations of time, of place, of our world that can be on the probing side. That can be on the uncomfortable side. That can be on the tough side. That it’s a space for us to talk about things that we might not be comfortable with and that artists are the ones that first and foremost are taking us to that place. And so in a way it’s like, I guess a lot of the curatorial aspect in particular was about wanting to be around artists and wanting to be around people who thought they could change the world.

And change the world with simply their hands. What they’re doing in the studio. You made a reference to, in one of the pieces, to this idea of basically take something, do something to it, do something else to it, which is Jasper Johns’ famous sort of refrain. And I think that idea, if we take it and we apply it to many different arenas of life, that it allows us to see things differently. It allows us to see the other side. It allows us to have perhaps a degree of empathy that we might not be able to have without the art object in front of us. Or without the image in front of us. Obviously right now words don’t always do what we want them to do.

And there’s a current exhibit of Cuban artwork, and talk to us about the lead-in to that exhibit and some of tensions that you dealt with and how you’re, how that has provoked conversation.

Well, things have changed since we spoke. I will say that what we try to do is, you mentioned some of it, is that to be a museum in the 21st century, it just, it seems to me that the idea of just going to the museum to look at something on the wall, and having this sort of rarefied conversation around connoisseurship is only but one very small aspect of what I find to be interesting in the museum space.

“Well I think one of the reasons why I was attracted to art history in the first place was the fact that there’s this space, there’s a space to make considerations of time, of place, of our world that can be on the probing side. That can be on the uncomfortable side. That can be on the tough side. That it’s a space for us to talk about things that we might not be comfortable with and that artists are the ones that first and foremost are taking us to that place.”

So what we’ve tried to do, and what we discuss, and I think we … Actually I say we because it’s not just us, we have a movement of people, not just in this country, but around the world that see visual art and see museums as arenas for discussion and arenas for things to happen. And places for people to be in dialogue and to be inspired in ways that they’re not able to do in other spaces. Right?

Here in Miami I think you guys probably experienced it somewhat during this week, right? It’s not the kind of place where you end up on a subway or a bus for that matter, sitting across from a bunch of people that don’t look like you. And just being in that environment together. We need our civic comments. And I think it’s the perfect place for us to have a real 21st century museum that thinks in a way that is more progressive than the past.

So what we’ve tried to do, and you can see it in our beautiful building, is that we’ve tried to create spaces where people feel comfortable to come regardless of what’s on the walls. We sit right on Biscayne Bay, on the other side of the water from here. We have an environment that I think is very much conducive to people sitting down and being together. And we’ve tried to make that the forefront of what we do. And we do that with exhibitions. And we do that with programs. And that is always the starting point. The art is the starting point, but it’s about getting somewhere else.

“Actually I say we because it’s not just us, we have a movement of people, not just in this country, but around the world that see visual art and see museums as arenas for discussion and arenas for things to happen. And places for people to be in dialogue and to be inspired in ways that they’re not able to do in other spaces.”

So you mentioned the Cuban art exhibition.

And I think we have a photo of that. If you guys can … There we go.

So this is a part of an exhibition that’s on view right now. And it’s a group exhibition. It’s the kind of show that obviously has to happen here. I should say that, you showed a piece by Félix González-Torres. This is a guy who came from Cuba and was in Miami. This is a story. This is the story of this place. And we’ve been a part of it for a long time. When the museum opened in the new building, 2013, we opened with an exhibition of the artist Ai Weiwei, Chinese. We opened with an artist, a British artist named Hew Locke. And we opened with an artist named Amelia Peláez, Cuban artist whose work is really couched in modernism. But it’s about that sort of conceptualization , it’s what we’re always trying to do.

So this exhibition is on view now. It comes from the collection of George Pérez. A local collector, and someone with an appetite for collecting that is just infectious and nonstop. And with a passion for art and ideas that goes beyond most of what we can imagine. And so we have this ability to show hundreds of works over the course of the next year, in three different iterations.It’s an incredible show, I just, I highly recommend people to come and see it. But there’s one little caveat that I have to mention, within the context of Miami. We have artists in the exhibition who have lived on the island of Cuba. And that does not, you can not do that here as easily as you would like. So it’s a little bit controversial. We show artists from the Cuban diaspora at all times. But that aspect is something that is challenging in today’s environment.

And it goes everywhere. We can talk about, you can allude to other things that are happening now. Minneapolis. Sam Durant, a wonderful artist who lives in Los Angeles, makes work that comes from guillotines. That comes from a history of architecture around hangings. And one of these happens to pertain to a massacre that happened in Minneapolis. So when Sam showed this piece in Germany ten years ago, nobody said a word. The piece goes on view in Minneapolis, it’s a different context. And that’s what we have. And it makes it a really exciting, a really invigorating and sometimes it makes it tough. But we want to have these kind of hard conversations. And I really believe that’s what our artists are for. And that’s what we would like to be a bridge to get behind.

Absolutely, when you talked about being the museum of the 21st century, and I think you told the New York Times that the Perez is going to be a focal point for that conversation. Obviously you are, but tell us, what are the works of art, the contemporary art of today, that will inform future generations about this moment in time in our country? In our world?

Yeah, I think in part, thinking back and how we relate to that idea of being a progressive institution in the 21st century is that we’re here in Miami and we have the opportunity to think about how we might look different than other museums across our country. We automatically, we live in a city where more than half the population speaks Spanish, at least. We’re in a place where something like 70% of the people actually were born somewhere else. So, in may ways, we have the perfect ingredients to look like a museum or look like a place that is different from other places in this country. And I think indicative of where we are going.

One way that we’ve been, I think, effective and played a role in that change is that we’re a museum of international contemporary art, there are many others like us around the world. But what we choose to do, and what we want to do is we want to be the best at presenting the work of Latin American and the Caribbean. And that’s where we are. And that’s the trajectory that we’re working with. And we happen to have a lot of great artists that come out of that tradition. So, you say, what is the great art that we might think about hundreds of years later? I like to believe, and I do believe that Félix González-Torres imprint is going to be felt for a very, very long time.

That piece you referred to. A highly conceptual piece, right? You pack it up. You put it away. Pieces of candy. It comes with instructions about how you are actually supposed to put it down as a form or as a composition, right? But we get to do that, and we get to do that in different times and in different places. Recently we had up a small pile of Félix’s and it was actually on view another place in the country.

So there’s this idea that a work of art, unlike the master piece of the late, say even 20th century at this point, does not necessarily have to be this idea of a unique piece that only exists for one person to have for 200 million dollars, right? It can be something that has a multi-valence structure, that allows for different people to experience it in different places at a single given time. And it can be about, I think with Félix it’s about a level of generosity that is just if we need it. Like we need now and we need it in the future. And that’s what that piece sums up for me in many ways. Because you’re allowed to actually take it away. How many pieces of great master pieces of art are you allowed to actually take with you?

Yeah, and dig. In fact, we were talking with the museum staff afterward and said, because they have to replenish the candy.

Yes.

People are eating it.

Small fee.

So what did you actually buy here? And it’s largely the idea. So the idea is the art. It’s pretty spectacular. When we talked earlier, kind of go back to what art of today is going to tell future generations. You brought up Beyonce and a number of musicians, just talk to us a little bit about what you’re seeing in music and how that is perhaps even more on the forefront than visual arts?

I think that one of the reasons why we actually talk about wanting to have a conversation around the museum that is perhaps a little bit more future oriented is because we recognize the fact of our past. And our history. And so music, to segue, has been more of a lingua franca, right? It’s been more of a vehicle for discussion or vehicle for talking about issues that has been for more people in the past. And I think that’s something that we’re hooking into. And in the museum space we do that with an interesting concentration, if you will, on film and video art. And seeing that as a space in which we can be a lot more effective than say, a painting.

I think that Beyoncé, yeah we mentioned that, but the images from that video, which was created by an artist, is something that is indelible. Is something that should have a life that continues on. So I think I was saying it in that context. I also feel like there is a discussion that has happened in music over the course of the last year that pre-stages much of the things that we’re talking about on a daily basis politically. If I think about Solange’s album. If I think about Kendrick Lamar’s album. If you think about Jay Z’s album. There are a lot of people that are addressing issues that are at the forefront of our daily lives. That’s what our best artists do.

And that was penning one of your earliest entries was with your thesis and …

So part of wanting to move the conversation somewhat forward, while loving 20th century art, while loving 19th century art, but part of the conversation, the desire to move it forward and to have a discussion that it could be a little bit more relevant in our time and place, has been to pick up on ideas that come from a more mass, or more popular culture. So, yes, the first real exhibition, I did an institutional space, was called One Planet under a groove, temporary art and hip hop. And it was an exhibition that sought to look at how this phenomenon played out in the hands of artists. And hundreds of artists around the world were working with it as material. And as ideas for their artwork.

Another exhibition has concentrated on the relationship to sport and contemporary art. And then plug, in April of this year we’ll have an exhibition up called the Worlds Game, contemporary art in football. Like how do we talk about what obviously sport has become more of a metaphor recently but how do we talk about these things in a broader sense. And I think that’s one way that we bring in a lot more people to the museum. We’ve also done it with ideas around spirituality. An exhibition called NeoHooDoo: Art for a Forgotten Faith. We sought to look at spirituality as material or as subject for contemporary visual artists. And obviously dealing with a lot of issues that could be part of our present conversation. So that’s been one way to try and move that conversation forward.

That’s fantastic. I’m checking the time. Okay, we’re good. Tell us a little bit about just as, as a nation as we become so much more diverse, how are you seeing that in the artists of today and what story?

Well I think, also we talked a little bit about institutional context. And so with both of us being involved to some degree with that, there has been a changing, there has been a diversifying, at least in some ways of what has been the traditional makeup of our nations museums. And that’s being propelled by the Melon Foundation, it’s being propelled by the Ford Foundation, the Knight Foundation. Being propelled by the Walton Family Foundation. There’s a conversation that sees the value, the obvious value. And corporations talk about this all the time. The obvious value in diversity and what it means to be an organization that has a level of diversity in terms of every aspect. Not just race. But gender, sexuality, these things are part and parcel of what I believe helps make us a more whole experience as far as it goes in terms of representing our country. Or even representing international ideas.

“We automatically, we live in a city where more than half the population speaks Spanish, at least. We’re in a place where something like 70% of the people actually were born somewhere else. So, in may ways, we have the perfect ingredients to look like a museum or look like a place that is different from other places in this country. And I think indicative of where we are going.”

And I know, most of us in this room work for a nonprofit of some sort. And we certainly have plenty of space to grow in diversifying our leadership. But what have been some of the barriers in the museum world in diversifying leadership in museums?

I mean, you know, we refer to a past, if we only think about the fact that if you go to any one of our great cities museums, and you look at the work, say the beginning of the 20th century, the people who produced that work tend to look the same. And they tend to be of the same gender. So, maybe it’s only a natural progression from there that most of the people that brought that work into the museum might look a little bit like that. But that’s the kind of thing that’s changing. And you know, I think it goes hand in hand together if you have artists who are speaking to the here and now of this moment, I think you need people who also can see that moment along with them. And I think that’s beginning to sink up a little bit. It’s certainly happening, I mean, for us it’s happening in a big way. Simply because of where we are. And so it’s been something that we’ve been recognized for in that conversation.

Just this week we brought in our first Ford fellow. And it’s a position that the Ford Foundation got behind with us because they want to do exactly what you’re talking about. They’re looking to diversify the field because they believe that there’s value in having other voices. And while I make that equation to the art, it really doesn’t have anything to do with who relates to what in the present. You can be talking about European art of the 16th century. I think that there’s value in diversifying the curatorial, or the directors who are looking at that work in the present.

And that’s what they’re getting behind. And that’s what we’re doing. So we just brought in our first Ford fellow. Happy to do that. It’s a two year term. And allows for us to have, more or less defined around a person of color. And to bring in somebody who is going to look our collection and talk about some of the ideas that go into our art collection and how we might talk about that in the future.

“I mean, you know, we refer to a past, if we only think about the fact that if you go to any one of our great cities museums, and you look at the work, say the beginning of the 20th century, the people who produced that work tend to look the same. And they tend to be of the same gender. So, maybe it’s only a natural progression from there that most of the people that brought that work into the museum might look a little bit like that. But that’s the kind of thing that’s changing.”

That’s great. So, shifting to hyper-local now, and recent events, and it was mentioned in the introduction, you were able to open your doors quickly after the storm and provide electricity and much needed air conditioning with a picture of families enjoying the museum as well as the amenities that you were able to offer. Tell us about that process and the decision making.

Well it just, it goes back to what are you as a museum? Who are you there for? And we’re there for our community. And I think that that means, not just putting together exhibitions, but doing what we can to be a part of a civic conversation. We feel that we have a stance that is valuable in our conversation. Just like other arenas of thought, corporations, other nonprofits, schools, sports teams. Have different ideas that all can contribute to the conversation. And one way that we can contribute is we have this incredible building. We’re inviting people into that building. Also, we have an incredible team. I mean, Christina was, that probably happened before I even thought about it, to be perfectly honest. And it’s kind of an ethos for our entire organization. If we can help, within our community, then we want to.

“There’s a conversation that sees the value, the obvious value. And corporations talk about this all the time. The obvious value in diversity and what it means to be an organization that has a level of diversity in terms of every aspect. Not just race. But gender, sexuality, these things are part and parcel of what I believe helps make us a more whole experience as far as it goes in terms of representing our country. Or even representing international ideas.”

So last night, people could come in free if you brought supplies to send to people who have been affected by the hurricanes. Particularly in the Caribbean. And that’s the kind of thing that is at the core of our mission. As much as we want to reflect the world around us through the exhibitions and programs, we also have an absolute duty to Miami and to our local community.

We were, as an organization we go back to 1984. And when the organization started, we started in a small space in Government Center, right? We were considered to be part of a group of buildings that provided a civic structure. So you had law makers next door, that kind of thing. And we take that strongly when we believe that we’re a part of a much bigger conversation than the international art conversation. Especially here. So that was, it’s a natural thing. If we can open up a few days after that when people are dealing with a lot of really tough things, and provide a space to think differently maybe for a moment. Or to get out of that space to provide a space that will allow for some other kind of thought. Then that’s what we’re there for. So it happened relatively easily.

“As much as we want to reflect the world around us through the exhibitions and programs, we also have an absolute duty to Miami and to our local community.”

Well congratulations to your team and a great team with a great leader.

Well thank you.

So going back, just talking about, we’re largely communicators in this room, and so you can certainly make the connection with creativity and communications. But something that really stands out to me and again, it goes back to your earliest experiences in a different discipline, I was struck by a quote that Alice had shared with us from a book, “The Art Spirit”. Written in 1923, Robert, I’m told it’s Henri…

Henri?

I’m told I’m pronouncing it right, aren’t I? Okay. And he just described people with the art sprit, their inventive, searching, daring, they disturb, upset, enlighten and open better ways for understanding. So, again going back to how we can all access art in all fields. Obviously communications, but what about business, engineering, medicine.

Yeah, I think another core aspect of being that kind of forward thinking institution is that education, in a broad sense, is at our core value. We are there to provide arts based learning. And we do that in a place, like most, where public school system doesn’t do that as much they once might have. So we are there to do that. We’ve had almost 200,000 students come in from the Miami-Dade public school system since we opened in December of 2013. So it’s a core part of what we do. And we do that with art educators. We do that with bringing in students and we also do that by bringing art to different communities throughout our county. So it’s a completely integral way of thinking and of thinking about what the museum can be.

When we had talked you mentioned problem solving.

Yes, yes. I think that we’re not trying to necessarily create artists. We’re just trying to provide another sort of system for education. Another way for people to think. And I think that’s the best part, is that if you just take those core kind of things that we were talking about, about looking at something from different sides, it helps you build a better product. It helps you think about other people and how they might receive your product. That idea of empathy, or that idea of putting yourself in another persons shoes. It just makes for better, I think, better thinking. It’s an opinion. I believe that if people are exposed to art and to the idea of being able to see things from different angles. From different sides, that it can be applied in many different ways. No matter what vocation one goes on to take, that engagement with art, as a part of the education process, allows for us to create.

“Yeah, I think another core aspect of being that kind of forward thinking institution is that education, in a broad sense, is at our core value. We are there to provide arts based learning. And we do that in a place, like most, where public school system doesn’t do that as much they once might have. So we are there to do that.”

That’s fantastic.

Something better.

“I think that we’re not trying to necessarily create artists. We’re just trying to provide another sort of system for education. Another way for people to think. And I think that’s the best part, is that if you just take those core kind of things that we were talking about, about looking at something from different sides, it helps you build a better product.”

Well I want to be sure that we save time for questions. And I believe there are some folks with hand held mics out there somewhere, I can’t see. So if you have a question, raise your hand and we’ll try to get the folks with the mics over to you. And if you would say your name, your organization and speak very directly into the microphone. I see we’ve got one question right up here. He’s on his way.

Audience

Thank you. My name is Edith, and I work for UNICEF. You are in a city and in a museum that receives people from all over the world. From all over the world right? Mainly from Latin America, but from everywhere. And want to take you a little bit in a different angle and ask you about leadership. And your leadership in particular. In that, you talked a lot about artists and featuring them and diversity and the meaningful. But I want to ask about diversity in leadership. And I want to ask you how do you see your role as a leader, in this field, and as a person of color, and how do you, can you help provide I guess, by example, open the doors for this idea that this is possible and that there can be more people in leadership role in the arts world, who are people of color?

Yeah. I think, so I … Thank you for the question. I have thought about how we can be effective and partners in terms of exactly what you are saying. So, one way has been this idea of, since we are a place for education, we are a place for scholarship, and traditionally curatorial ranks within the museums, the curators have been a sort of pipeline, if you will, to directors. That’s my experience. So what I’ve tried to do is be a integral and vocal part of a growing community of people around the world who are in discussion with each other and supporting each other. And so it’s not just the Ford fellow that we have. We also have intern programs for high school students right here in Miami. And so we’re trying to be, we’re trying to be effective partners in thinking in a forward way about our partnership and what we can do as far as that, increasing diversity within the field. And within the sphere.

And that’s been the most direct way. To me that is the most direct way. To be able to bring in people, not just as free interns, but from even the high school level, to be able to give them something so that they can afford to come and work with us. Because I think that can be a detriment. To not only, to then take it from the high school level to take it to the post-undergraduate level. So we have a place there where somebody can come now. And then we’re thinking beyond that. And we want to be able to keep doing that on a very formal level, and at the same time, like if you were to think of our institution as a place for that dialogue, then we’re doing our role in that space.

About a year and a half ago we hosted one of the very first discussions about this idea of Latin X. About the idea of getting away from the gender based Latino or Latina. But to embrace this idea of Latin X. And that happened because of another great artist, Teresita Fernández who was born here to Cuban parents, but lives in New York, has an international following, wonderful artist. And she’s part of this conversation. And we want to be part of that conversation with her. And so we hosted a sort of round table discussion a year and a half ago, which then led to a major convening at the Ford Foundation in New York, maybe six months later. Where we want to be a part of that conversation. Always. And we have a curatorial team, it’s not just from my position, but we have a curatorial team that includes four people that represent a lot of those ideals.

Audience

Hi, my name is Kareem and I’m from the New York Foundation. And one thing that’s been happening recently, I mean we’re a small foundation, and we do mostly community organizing and advocacy grant making. And it seems that art and art makers and art organizations are becoming more and more important to advocacy and community organizing. So my question is, how do we tap into communities of artists and try to use those tools and those people who have that skill to help the organizations we fund do organizing? And integrate that into other foundations?

I think partnership, I mean this idea of collaboration is something that across our nonprofit organizations is something that we, at least have tried to be progressive partners and tried to seek out those sort of partnerships. And rely on the expertise of others. We are, we know what we have, right? We have a great space. We have links to artists, both who work for the museum and then also artists who are out there in the community and around the world, who have their works in our collection. And we can be a conduit for whenever that idea of images comes in to play. Or the idea of art, any space for virtuality that you have, that you’re looking for in your conversation, at least we’re looking for that. We know we can’t do what you do, but we want to do what we can to help you do what you do better. And it goes both ways. You make us better, we hopefully make you better.

Great, I think we have time for one more question. Is there anyone? Out there? All right, well this was a great way to close out a great week.

Thank you.

So thank you Franklin, it was lovely to be with you today.

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