To our community.
In the College of Visual and Performing Arts, we have long proclaimed that the arts create community. We restate it now in full awareness that the very concept of community is under challenge in ways both new and distressingly old. We restate it now in order to express solidarity with and support for members of our community who are, and have been, suffering disproportionately.
When part of our community is hurting, we all hurt. Or we should.
In the middle of unprecedented social and economic disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, another kind of viral infection has continued to assert itself, and it is not a “novel” one, unfortunately. It is the virus of racism.
The recent deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, and Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia have put Americans sharply on notice that the work of equality, the work of justice, the work of freedom for all is still a work in progress—and that progress is not always forward. Racial prejudice and injustice and violence still survive in our society despite laws, despite education, despite art, despite science, despite goodwill in the hearts of many.
As artists and educators in CVPA, we acknowledge and commit to the hard work in front of us: to create communities that are anti-racist, truly free, and fully just for all. Saying it out loud is only the first step. The real work begins now, with both reflection and action: in our classrooms and studios, on our stages, in our galleries and digital spaces, and most importantly in our own hearts, minds, relationships, and daily practice.
Many great creations begin with the question, spoken or unspoken, “what if…?” What if we wrote, designed, painted, danced, sculpted, sang, enacted a world where liberty and justice for all was a living truth? Where all are safe, all are empowered to live and breathe and speak and create in freedom?
We all have a role to play, and our practice as artists teaches us to see, to imagine, to empathize, to make new worlds. Let us use those practices to make a better world. To create a true community. The real work begins now.
Rick Davis, Dean
NOTE: Please see Interim President Anne Holton and President Designate Gregory Washington’s statement, released June 1.
For anyone interested in exploring issues of race, racism, and racial identity, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture has recently released a web portal, “Talking About Race.” The announcement includes a quote from the museum’s Interim Director, our Mason colleague Spencer Crew, Robinson Professor of U.S. History.