As a 21st century museum dedicated to representing diverse, multicultural communities, Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) strives to serve as a forum for open, honest, and difficult dialogue while creating understanding through the power of art.
Since our birth as an institution, we have been dedicated to the work of Black and Brown artists. Our hearts are with George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others. Now, more than ever, we stand in solidarity with our communities and with those who seek justice and reform here in Miami and around the world.
Many of you are reeling and feeling the weight of these national recent events and here in Miami. There is much soul searching to do for each and every one of us as individuals and as a collective. What can you do? What can we do? How can we lean on each other, our families, and friends to create a world in which this cannot happen, yet again?
I don’t have the answers, but like many of you I am not surprised by the events. It is one thing to provide a place for people to talk about change, but what shall we do to effect change when the ability is within reach? Content and education will only do but so much. In the same way that COVID-19 has put such a lens on our shortcomings around equity, the nation’s disparate system of value on all human life and the huge gap between haves and have nots, we are in a position of acknowledgment that can and will lead to change? What will we do with this added opportunity?
If we look to the work our museum has done, at least there’s a blueprint in how to effect changes in perceptions and stories. We have changed art historical narratives with our exhibitions, programs, and collections. No one can say there are no great artists from Latin America, the Caribbean, or the African diaspora anymore—that’s change in the knowledge and perception that leads to different ways of doing things in the future.
When this museum began, in 1984—that was not the case. Is it possible to be a part of this type of change in a wider sphere of American political culture? The art narrative was different then and much more narrowly defined but had we not been surrounded by immigration, and racial oppression then our story might be different…I can remember working at the Whitney Museum in 1992, and the way Madison Avenue cleared out after the response to the police acquittals in the Rodney King trial. Some of you must have closer ties to the 1980 response to the acquittal of the Miami police officer who murdered Arthur McDuffie on 38th and North Miami Avenue the year before.
Most of us are here in the space of the arts because we want to change the world and believe that museums afford us an opportunity to do just that—or, at least, be close to the possibility of changing the world.
With that in mind, I leave you with a quote from Dominique de Menil on the occasion of her becoming director of the new Institute for the Arts at Rice University in Houston, in 1969…
“We are not going to do anything revolutionary but it may appear revolutionary. Whatever we will present will be a reflection of our time. And if it appears revolutionary it is because we live in revolutionary times.”