Like so many of you, we are heartbroken and outraged at the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police officers sworn to protect him. Repeated acts of police brutality, and the attempts to suppress protests across our country, are part of a deeply-embedded, centuries-long tradition of racial injustice, violence and oppression of people of color.
Arts organizations – especially those that are predominantly white—have a deep responsibility in the present moment, to stand against hatred and racial injustice. We often say that the arts promote empathy, that a great painting, sculpture, or poem has the power to lift us above our divisions and inspire us to transcend our personal point of view, to stand in the shoes of another. Now is the time to be true to those values.
The Vermont Arts Council stands in support of our friends and colleagues in communities of color. We commit to the work of uprooting racism, in its many forms. This is a moment of reckoning, a time to re-evaluate how we allocate our resources, and whose voices and perspectives we are recognizing through our work. Through our grant programs and alliances, we will seek to foster anti-racism efforts at the cultural organizations we fund, and to support and lift up the voices of artists of color across Vermont.
As we write, our country is gripped not only by racial violence but the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, which is disproportionately affecting communities of color and the most vulnerable. Everything feels fragile: Our democracy. Public health. The economic future of our communities. A sense of common ground, compassion, and shared values.
In this terrible and fearful moment, we salute the artists, poets, musicians, dancers, and writers who are joining protests, painting murals and composing poems to honor the fallen, and to awaken us all. We are placing our faith in the power of art to bring us back to our better selves, to show us the beauty of each other’s faces and souls, until we can no longer look away.