September 23, 2016
Dear CAM Senior Directors:
I am writing on behalf of the Crossroads College Preparatory School community to share that we will not engage with the Contemporary Art Museum as part of any of our art classes or other programs until the demands of CAM’s Black administrative museum staff are met. It is clear that the Direct Drive exhibition by Kelley Walker, curated by CAM’s Chief Curator, Jeffrey Uslip, demonstrates that CAM’s values are not currently in alignment with those at Crossroads College Preparatory School.
Crossroads College Preparatory School is committed to an inclusive and equitable learning and classroom experience for all of our students, faculty, staff, and community, and our understanding and analysis of systemic racism is such that I regard the Direct Drive exhibition as harmful to all of our constituents, particularly our students, regardless of their race. The artist’s appropriation and distortion of the images in his exhibition and CAM’s decision to give them the space it does represents an act of cultural racism for which, we believe, CAM must take responsibility.
The assertion that the artist’s work destabilizes “issues of identity, race, class, sexuality, and politics” appears to me to be an unexamined attempt to make invisible and “whitewash” the images he uses and the racial crises they represent. As St. Louis struggles with it’s own racist history and in light of racially motivated violence that remains ever-recent, I agree with the Black administrative museum staff that the work is “untimely and insensitive.” Direct Drive preserves and perpetuates the notion that a white artist and a primarily white institution can work and function without accountability to the people of color it depicts or affects in your institution and in our community.
Crossroads College Preparatory School stands in solidarity with De Andrea Nichols, Lyndon Barrois, Jr., and Victoria Donaldson.
Jason Heisserer, EdD
Head of School