Newfields Stumbles over a Word

My favorite museum, Newfields, has recently stumbled over a ‘colorful’ word … White.

Apparently, my backyard museum posted a job offering in an attempt to recruit someone who could bring a more diverse paying audience through the doors and at the same time retain retain the museum’s core ‘white’ audience. Source.

After the backlash of using the ‘white’ word, the Museum revised the employment ad to say ‘traditional’ audience.

Part of the backlash came from GangGang, an Indianapolis art initiative whose objective is to elevate artists of color in the Indianapolis art scene. GangGang was to curate of the upcoming “DRIP: Indy’s #BlackLivesMatter Street Mural” exhibition which was to open at Newfields in April 2021. They say :

“Our exhibition cannot be produced in this context and this environment,” Jeffers and Bacon, co-founders of GANGGANG, a local art incubator working to elevate artists of color, said. “We have asked Newfields to revisit this exhibition to include an apology to all artists involved, the opportunity for the 18 visual artists to show their other, personal works with appropriate compensation, and an intentional strategy from Newfields to display more works from more Black artists in perpetuity.” 

Over a single ‘white’ word? Really?

I recall a Thornton Dial exhibit at the Museum in 2012 that explored the ‘hard truths’ of poverty, racism, war and homelessness in black America. At the present, Thorton Dial’s “Don’t Matter How Raggly the Flag, It Still Got to Tie Us Together” is on display (as of February 15). Note cards of people’s reaction to the Dial’s artwork are taped to the wall for all to read.

Thornton Dial "Don't Matter How Raggly the Flag, It Still Got to Tie Us Together
Thornton Dial “Don’t Matter How Raggly the Flag, It Still Got to Tie Us Together” art piece hanging at Newfields on February 8, 2021. Photo by Dave O.

I’m not certain “GangGang” is the most promotable moniker for a black artist initiative as it sounds ‘thuggy”. Might as well be ‘gang bang” or “chain gang”. In this article, they say :

“Gang” might be a loaded word today with an extra-legal connotation, but it used to have an entirely different meaning. It’s from an Old English expression that means “going” or “journey.” By the early 1600s, the word had evolved to mean “a set of things or a group of people that go together” (e.g., “The whole gang’s here!”). When Bacon and Jeffers combined the word’s early meanings, they knew they’d found their name: GANGGANG, as in a group of people going on a journey together.

Ah, I appreciate the theme of ‘journeying together’. Visit the GangGang web site for more information.

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