Black artists in Tacoma will soon have the chance to win $ 15,000 with a new grant from the Tacoma Art Museum.

The “The Current” grant will support black artists in the greater Tacoma area. In addition to the initial prize, the winner can use an additional $ 12,000 for museum programming.

Artist’s awards manager Victoria Miles said all too often black artists were excluded from the museum, which is a few blocks from the Black Hilltop Historic District.

“Black artists are missing, but they are very present and very present,” said Miles. “Tacoma is for black artists, and we have to honor that.”

Two years ago, Miles completed a Black History Month project for the museum that showed the institution had virtually no black artists in its collection. This is a problem for a museum in a city with a notable black population.

“I think it’s a reject for a lot of people in the community to come and see themselves not being reflected on these walls,” said Miles. “I don’t think it’s fair to black people in the city, so we really wanted to emphasize that we know this as an institution, we recognize that our collection has excluded and misses black artists.”

The grant arrives just as the museum completes an exhibition of The Kinsey collection – an invaluable collection of art and artifacts considered to be one of the most comprehensive investigations into African American history and culture outside of the Smithsonian Institution.

The exhibit created and built multiple local connections, including a pop-up store with exclusive merchandise in partnership with local brand Tacoma eTc, and featured local organizers and personalities from Tacoma’s black community. Additionally, a University Place family whose father began working for the Pullman Car Company in the 1940s donated his Pullman porter uniform to the Kinsey Collection, and it is currently on display.

The new grant will be a radical change from the way artist awards are typically awarded. The funds are unlimited, which allows artists to define for themselves what exactly the support looks like, and the voice of the community is essential to the process, Miles said.

“Everything we do requires the voice of the community so that we can move forward first,” said Miles. “If we don’t have a response from the community, (if) we don’t have a response from the people, it’s like, wait, wait, stop. “

Miles said the goal was to “reimagine” the relationship between institutions like the museum and the communities of which they are a part.

“How do we reinvent the way we engage with black artists and blacks in Tacoma? And how can we make this more connective? How is that more generative than just getting, getting, getting, how do we really give and see something thrive and grow? Said Miles. “What’s most important is that we want black people to feel comfortable being here and want to be here.”

And in order to do that, Miles said, they have to listen to their voices.

The grant is expected to be awarded in November 2022.


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