IN PRAISE OF THELMA GOLDEN
I am continually amazed by the way in which the subject of race can take itself in many places that we don’t imagine it should be. I am always amazed by the way in which artists are willing to do that in their work. It is why I look to art. It’s why I ask questions of art. It is why I make exhibitions.
—Thelma Golden, How Art Gives Shape to Cultural Change
I was recently reminded of Thelma Golden’s amazing TED Talk almost a decade old now. As the Studio Museum in Harlem turns 50 this year, I am thinking about how lucky we are to have such a rich cultural history in New York. Specifically an institution that examines what it means to be an African-American in the past, present, and future simultaneously. In this new century, I can’t think of anything more empowering than seeing Thelma Golden steering the ship, and inspiring artists and the larger community to see that we are building a world that is more just; that a museum can be the place for a larger cultural discourse about race and the major issues we face; that a museum can be driven by programming that is representative of diverse African-American and Latino voices; and a world that we all want to see and live in.
“How can I participate?”, you ask. Thelma Golden has the answer: “I know that many of you are involved in cross-cultural dialogue, you’re involved in ideas of creativity and innovation. Think about the place that artists can play in that—that is the kind of incubation and advocacy that I work towards in working with young, black artists. Think of artists not as content providers, though they can be brilliant at that, but, again, as real catalysts.” Thelma Golden reminds us of the radical power of transformation. She reminds me of the power of my own agency, and how important it is to continue to ask questions while not shying away from those discussions that are most difficult. A link to Thelma Golden’s inspiring TED Talk is provided. Check it out!