St. Louis is indelibly associated with racial tension and inequity. In the minds of outsiders and St. Louisans alike, the city is defined by “The Divide”—disparities, deficits, and discrimination. This image was reinforced nationally by the 2014 uprisings in Ferguson and Department of Justice Report that followed and ongoing protests and incidents related to policing and other dimensions of racial inequality. These divides and disparities are deep and long-standing, and CRE2 shares an ambition with the region’s stakeholders and Washington University to disrupt and ameliorate them.
However, we often miss the ways that race and ethnicity are assets for St. Louis, seen perhaps most clearly and richly in the arts and St. Louis’s cultural institutions and creative landscape. This is true equally of the “creative class” that has made a home in St. Louis as visual artists, writers, musicians, designers, and dancers; minority-serving and “micro” institutions that serve many cultures and ethnicities; and the region’s legacy cultural institutions. Indeed, an entire generation of St. Louis artists was inspired by Ferguson and its aftermath to create art that is having a national impact. Finally, Washington University’s own MFA programs in Arts & Sciences and the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts are consistently producing extraordinary graduates working on race, representation, and design, and the Kemper Museum also engages these crucial issues.
Of course, these contrasting stories – of racial conflict and cultural vibrancy – also collide in St. Louis and our region, and are reflected in enduring challenges like perpetual neglect of minority-serving arts and culture institutions, selective cultural heritage preservation, representations of race and ethnicity – including erasure – on the memorial landscape, and extreme underrepresentation among staff and leadership of museums, libraries, and archives.
The CRE2 Arts & Culture Action Lab proposes to help address these and other issues by serving as a key partner, hub, and incubator for race and/or ethnicity and the arts and culture in St. Louis. The goals of the CRE2 Arts & Culture Action Lab are to:
- Support and amplify arts and culture work that is already happening, where appropriate lending scholarly and other support to amplify its importance, visibility and impact;
- Incubate new creative work and related research, curricular, and community initiatives at the intersection of race and/or ethnicity and arts and culture;
- Enhance the pipeline for arts and culture professionals of color trained in issues of race and/or ethnicity, in partnership with Washington University museums and libraries, and educational and cultural institutions in our region.
- Galvanize and amplify efforts to use arts and culture initiatives as a driver for interracial and interethnic community and racial and/or ethnic equity, including heritage preservation and reparative commemorative projects;
- Support inclusion and engagement with race and/or ethnicity in collections, exhibitions, and archives; funding opportunities; and programming in arts and cultural institutions, including related policies, planning, and partnerships;
- Partner with the Sam Fox School and the Mildred Lane Kemper Museum, MFA programs, and the Departments of Performing Arts and Music to amplify Washington University’s connection to arts and culture both internally and externally; through the lens of race and/or ethnicity;
- Serve as a national and global hub that draws artists and arts professionals to the region and promotes the richness of St. Louis’ arts and culture scene, especially as this relates to race, ethnicity and equity.
Specific programs we anticipate include:
- Artist residencies and workshops—in conjunction with Washington University’s arts schools and departments and local museums and galleries, hosting internationally renowned and emerging artists for a period of days or over the course of a year
- Courses, fellowships, internships, and externships supporting faculty and student research, learning and community partnerships aligned with the CRE2 Arts & Culture Action Lab
- Campus and community collaborations with legacy, micro-, and minority-serving institutions focused on capacity building, preservation, and experiential learning
- Work with Washington University Libraries and the Kemper Museum, including special collections, and other area repositories, to help build and preserve collections and archives related to the CRE2 Arts & Culture Action Lab, and to promote the accessibility, visibility, and use of these collections and archives
- Creative and professional development workshops for emerging artists of color working on race and/or ethnicity
- Supporting artists and arts professionals in areas including art critical writing, curation, preservation, and nonprofit management
- Working with NGOs, government, and community partners to advance racial and/or ethnic equity through arts and culture projects, including heritage preservation, monuments and memorials, public art, and other projects
- Curated spaces—invitations to local artists to curate spaces and/or in collaboration with faculty/staff/students on our campuses