June 12, 2020
Dear SIA Community,
You may have read the statement we published on our website on June 2nd in response to the horrific and heartbreaking events we have seen unfold in America and the ensuing calls for change that have cascaded around the world. While we felt compelled to voice our outrage against yet more manifestations of the systemic racism that exists in America, and do so with urgency, we fully acknowledge that such a statement ultimately needs to be backed up by actions. We appreciate the outpouring of both expressions of support and encouragement as well as candid rebukes from the broader SIA community.
We want to be clear — we are not nearly where we need or want to be. Whether it is the makeup of our student body, faculty, or the staff and administration at SIA, we fall short in the area of racial diversity. Our curriculum also needs a serious and comprehensive review to ensure that it covers the topics, materials, and artists that are more representative of where the art world is going — which is more diverse, more digital, and more inclusive. The art world is one full of contradictions — while it can be a bastion of exclusivity and privilege, many artists and key protagonists have come from the humblest of beginnings and a wide range of cultural and ethnic backgrounds.
We are not proud to admit this, but it has taken the most recent set of world events to finally wake us up. While we are pioneers in art market education, over our 50-year history at SIA we have not focused enough on the history, art, and markets of artists of color. It is a history from which we need to untangle ourselves and willfully march towards making the much-needed changes. As an academic institution, this heritage also painfully reminds us that we have a critical responsibility to ensure that we make our education more accessible, especially for those that are historically underrepresented at our school and in the art world. We are awake now and we may be late, but we are prepared and committed to kickstart the transformation process.
We again felt a similar impulse to come back to all of you quickly with all of the action items spelled out. However, as we got into it, we realized just as quickly that this wasn’t going to be addressed with a series of band-aid solutions. We were also humbled by our lack of knowledge, experience, and appreciation for the nuances of racial injustice, especially as it relates to the systemic oppression of the Black community. We concluded that the only way to do this right was to: i) engage with the members in the Global SIA Community, especially those that identify as representing the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) community, to hear their stories, solicit suggestions, and share ideas about the kind of changes that we want to see at SIA; and ii) educate ourselves as an institution on the topics of racial equity, diversity, and inclusion so that we can get closer to actually knowing what we are talking about. This will take time but given what is at stake and the potential impact the changes may have, we believe this more inclusive, thoughtful, and humble approach would be more appropriate and effective.
Having said the above, we have had our initial set of discussions and we can share with you the areas we have identified where we are committed to making changes. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list and we will surely be doing more, but it’s where we will start:
- We will be establishing a new scholarship fund (currently dubbed the Diverse Visionaries Scholarship Fund), which will be targeted towards BIPOC individuals each academic year. These scholarships will be available across all programs offered at Sotheby’s Institute.
- We will do a comprehensive review of the curriculum of all of our programs, starting with the Master's degree programs, to ensure that topics related to diversity and inclusion are represented in a meaningful way.
- We will establish a working committee, which will include senior managers, faculty, students, and alumni to make recommendations for diversity practices, access and participation, and diversity in the curriculum, student services, career services, and other areas of the school.
- We will review our human resource strategies with the goal of enhancing the representation of BIPOC individuals, in particular among faculty, staff, and management positions.
- We will host an annual symposium dedicated to topics of diversity and inclusion in the art markets, with the primary objective of providing professional networking opportunities for those groups who are underrepresented in the art world.
- We will hold an Open Forum on July 30th, for a discussion on how our curriculum, programs, and services can be more diverse and inclusive.
- We will report out on the actions we have taken on our website at sothebysinstitute.com/diversity with regular updates and as we have more details on the above initiatives.
We not only welcome your input and participation— we actually need them to arrive at well-informed action items. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to participate in any of the above initiatives or to share your thoughts at any time.
Again, we humbly acknowledge that we are off to a late start but we want to prove to you that it is better late than never. We invite all of you in the SIA community to work with us on these complex and difficult issues to help us make advances in the right direction.
We are looking forward to it.