Our Commitment to Change

Author: School of Art
June 22, 2020

Thank you, School of Art students for being a part of today’s incredible push for systemic racism change and police brutality reform for Black people sparked by the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor – the latest victims of 400 years of Black injustice. Your generation is driving this reckoning through street protests, online activism, and informed discussion with your family and friends. You have been ahead of the curve in this conversation and the SF State School of Art has been slow to catch up. This is our reckoning too. The School of Art has had action items in the discussion, but we realize we need to act more quickly and out of respect to you we must be transparent with our stand and plans for equity in your education and decolonization of the art world.

• We understand that education is one of the key factors in economic success for the Black community. The ability for Black people to gain wealth and power through education has been suppressed and systematically sabotaged from pre-school to grad school. Your education is our primary mission and we will strive to provide you more support towards degree completion and advancement into your chosen creative paths. We are adding to our student scholarship roster a cash stipend to support Black/African American student study in Studio Art and Art History. This is new scholarship money, equal in amount to any of our current scholarships, that increases our annual student support. A recent gift to the School of Art by a former SF State Art student allows us to offer this scholarship. As she was Japanese American we are honored to use these funds in support of another BIPOC art student to support diversity in the field. More details will unfold as the Spring scholarship season approaches.

• We understand that the School of Art faculty lineup does not yet fully reflect the rich diversity of culture, experience, and history of the students in our studios and lecture halls – at face value nor in demographic facts. We know that role modeling is a key component of student success in completing education but also in rising in their professional fields. We are dedicated to assembling here in the School of Art the best artists and scholars that are representative of the vibrant diversity of the Bay Area. We will further broaden our outreach for both full-time and lecturer hires and require implicit bias training in our search committee process for hiring full-time faculty.

• We understand that our curriculum needs to better reflect the swift cultural and demographic changes of the 21st Century world around us. We have been aware of the need to offer a greater mix of speakers, guest artists, and exhibitions; we have made good progress towards this, but we can do more and will. Our art history faculty is now working to replace Western Art I and II with more expansive and inclusive surveys, Global Art History I and II, that decolonize art historical knowledge and dismantle racial hierarchies. More immediately we are offering courses that advance our Latin X curriculum: this summer the course Art as Social Function: Latinismo, Chicanismo y California will be inaugurated, this fall African Diasporic Art in Latin America will be taught by our new Art History hire, Abigail Lapin Dardashti. Her course Mexican Muralism and Its Legacies needed to be postponed because of Covid-19 guidelines but we hope to offer it in Spring 2021 if health guidelines permit.

We, the faculty, staff, and technicians of the School of Art did not want to offer you just solidarity and empathy, we wanted to hopefully demonstrate to you that we understand that you, us — everyone — want tangible change today. The large picture problem of Black disenfranchisement can feel overwhelming but what the School of Art can do is ensure you have the best art education you can receive and prepare you to enter an art world that is transformed to better receive you with welcoming equity and exciting opportunity. We look forward to receiving your feedback and working together towards this end. We hope that we see all of you again this fall — okay, remotely — because we encourage and support you to pursue your education at SF State uninterrupted and launch you into what seemingly will be a brave new world without delay.

-The School of Art, San Francisco State University