Through bold action and strategic investment, we endeavor to create a space for new ideas, diverse perspectives, and social connection. Philbrook recognizes that integral to our own mission is to seek out, learn from, and support those already engaged in community building efforts. Our own efforts toward creating a safe place for belonging, learning, inspiration, and fun begins with transparency and accountability to our institutional values.
We regard learning, creativity, and the investigation of ideas as a vital, life-long pursuit. We advocate for inquiry, debate, play, experimentation, and collaboration in all our activities, programs, and practices.
We believe art and gardens are essential to the physical and emotional wellbeing of our community. We create and support opportunities for relaxation, inspiration, reflection, exercise, and fun.
We embrace our role as civic influencers to spark dialogue and promote positive change; increase access to diverse ideas, cultures, and perspectives; champion social justice; and be relevant and welcoming to all.
We strive to employ sustainable practices to preserve our collection, campus, and environment for future generations. We exercise fiscal responsibility to ensure short- and long-term viability and maximize our impact.
Black Lives Matter
Museums make a commitment to collecting, sharing, and stewardship. What we collect and show becomes a reflection of our institutional values. We are also called on to serve as both advocate and model for the good and the best in our community and fellow citizens.
In June 2020, inspired by the bold action of organizers and activists in the Black community, Philbrook made a public commitment to do more to eradicate racism within our own institution and in our community. We also committed to updating you regularly on this work.
Statement dated June 5, 2020: (link)
We grieve with our community and our country. The murders of George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless other Black Americans have sparked protests in cities large and small. As we reflect on the tragedy of the Tulsa Race Massacre 99 years ago this week, we stand today in solidarity with millions of voices demanding justice and reform.
We look to our institutional values and acknowledge our privileged position as a civic influencer, with a responsibility to promote positive change and champion social justice. We will not stand by as a silent witness to systemic racism, marginalization, and intolerance. Nor can we sidestep the hard work ahead as we confront the privilege, colonialism, and inequity that exists as the bedrock of most museums, including our own.
Philbrook must do more to eradicate racism. Our entire staff is engaging in open, uncomfortable dialogue about this moment and ways to take action, as individuals and as an organization. To fully realize our mission, we will amplify the voices of Black artists and cultural institutions across and in partnership with our community. We recognize that it is our responsibility to do this work.
Today we share three projects representative of the work we will do to translate these words into enduring action:
*We commit to acquiring and commissioning the majority of new works for the museum from Black artists for the next three years, with a continuing commitment to acquisitions of works by Black artists into the future.
*We commit to an externally-guided Diversity Assessment of the staff, leadership, and Board of Trustees this year to surface and begin to correct inequities and to explore ways to better reflect the diversity of the communities we seek to serve. The findings will be used to develop an Advisory Council on Diversity made up of external stakeholders to hold us accountable to continued progress.
*We commit to the presentation of From the Limitations of Now, an exhibition in spring 2021 featuring the work of many Black artists who reflect on the tragedy of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre and the long legacy of systemic racism in this country. While addressing violence, they also point to important ways art allows us to more deeply examine the past and to imagine the world otherwise. Programming will be crafted in partnership with Tri-City Collective.
We have much work to do. It will not only require constant listening to you, our friends, members, partners, supporters, and critics, but also constant action and change in response to what we learn along the way. We are committed to that change and we will be measured by our actions.
Black lives matter.
- In September 2020 Philbrook acquired one work by a Black artist; it is our sole purchase since June 2020: Tie Quilt #2 (1991) by artist Elizabeth Talford Scott, a quilter whose use of unconventional materials is the signature of her practice.
- In February 2021 Philbrook’s Diversity Assessment was completed.
- In March 2021 Philbrook will open From the Limitations of Now and Views of Greenwood, the details of which are featured in this publication.
(Living) Land Acknowledgment
Our Land Acknowledgement is not just a statement—it is one tangible action in a multifaceted and ongoing process working with Native people in our community. This process embodies the commitments we are making to listen deeply, to build lasting relationships, and to work together with the many communities we serve.
Developed over more than a year, our current Land Acknowledgement is a living statement resulting from dozens of conversations, listening sessions, and feedback from members of Native nations in our area. We welcome ongoing dialogue around the important issues addressed in this statement and plan to continue refining it based on new feedback and our own growth as an institution.
Thank you to each of the individuals who so generously shared their time and perspectives during this process, including community members, scholars, tribal leadership, and artists from the Muscogee (Creek), Kaw, Pawnee, Osage, Cherokee, and Delaware Nations.
THE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT (as of October 2020)
We recognize that Philbrook Museum of Art is on Native land, within the boundaries of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. We also acknowledge the Caddo, Osage, Quapaw, Wichita, and other Indigenous peoples who have always had a presence here, as well as the Muscogee (Creek), Cherokee, and other Nations who were forcibly removed here from their traditional territories. We respect the rich history and ongoing relationship Native peoples have with this land and the many contributions of Indigenous people to this place so many call home. We commit to honor this distinctive cultural heritage in our fulfillment of the Philbrook Mission, Vision, and Values.