For Immediate Release

December 17 2015

#DieInAtTAM

Die In Protest Tonight (7pm) at Tacoma Art Museum demanding:

- more Black staff at all levels of leadership within Tacoma Art Museum.

- staff/board retraining in Undoing Institutional Racism (UIR) at all levels of leadership among Art Museum personnel.

- that the artist Roster for Art AIDS America be changed to include greater representation of Black Artists before the show tours nationally in 2016

Art AIDS America, which purports to "explore the whole spectrum of artistic responses to AIDS" almost entirely excludes Black artists. Black Americans represent over 40% of the death toll (nearly 270,000 AIDS related deaths since the 80's) but out of 107 contributors only 4 of the artists are in the exhibition are Black. When confronted about the lack of Black artists in an interview, TAM curator Rock Hushka explained "You have to wait for the next one."

This gross negligence is unacceptable. The die-in will mourn and honor the over nearly 700,000 Black Americans past and present who have directly suffered in this epidemic and for whose lives Tacoma Art Museum, Bronx Museum Jonathan Katz, and Rock Hushka have shown no concern.  This is critical because arts movements have been the center of raising public visibility throughout the history of the HIV AIDS epidemic, and while HIV prevalence decreases in nearly every US demographic, it continues to increase among Black americans due to lack of access to medical care.

For Black Americans the crisis is not over.  1/3 Black trans women are diagnosed with HIV and 57% of all HIV diagnoses under age 24 are of Black youth.  Black Americans also die more frequently and sooner from AIDS related complications than any other group in the US based on lack of access to medical care and identification of the virus in late stages of development. In an era when Black bodies are targeted from seemingly every direction, the fundamental lack of empathy or regard by TAM and Bronx Museum is disturbing. The exhibit which largely displays HIV as a white crisis from the 80's. these two institutions are willfully continuing to erase the reality of black suffering in the HIV AIDS crisis, by showing and almost exclusively white gay perspective.  

This is show is the natural result however of a predominantly white organization with zero Black full time staff in its entire history (besides grounds/security services) developing a project addressing HIV (and partnering with no Black organizations or curators in that development). Sadly this approach is consistent with TAM's leadership and engagement model for the past 3 decades. Other than a quilt show 4 years ago the last project at TAM that Rock Hushka remembers emphasizing Black contributions was in 1993. This is typical of a museum that targets "whole families" at the center of it's marketing strategy.

Still there is no excuse. Beyond the fact that Hushka admits to not being familiar with the racial demographics of those impacted by HIV, the museum is actually failing all Tacoma residents by propagating a deeply distorted and false history of our society.  Failing to see outside representations of white male suffering -

 This action is necessary to make a bold statement to art museums and historical institutions across the country that we are not waiting until "the next one".  We refuse to be relegated the second class slot relegated by TAM.  We have engaged in dialog. We have asked for changes to the show. We been given no choice but to take direct action.

Our efforts are not to discount works included in the project. Many artists contributed strikingly relevant to Art AIDS America about resilience and loss. We deeply respect the work that has been contributed, especially the 4 Black artists included. Nonetheless, to create a project about HIV in the US and discount the nearly 270,000 Black lives lost in this epidemic is not only grossly negligent from a historical standpoint, but contributes to the lack of visibility and lack of public concern that keeps the epidemic at large.

This show paints HIV as an issue faced predominantly by white gay men, when in fact the most at risk group are currently black trans women.  After resistance by groups such as ACT up in the 90s successfully pressured the government and medical industries to support the fight against HIV/AIDS, the benefits of those movements were enjoyed primarily by white gay men and others with the privilege of medical access.  Black HIV infections have been steadily growing since the late 90s, and white gay America has been content to look at HIV aids as a non issue because they are no longer affected.  New developments like Truvada have been heralded as the end times HIV, but the access to the tools of HIV prevention/treatment for Black americans and Black Transwomen remains largely ignored.

Black people worldwide should not be dying from a disease we have the resources to treat and prevent.  White supremacy, gender justice, economic inequality and access to medical care are not sideline issues in the topic of HIV but central and entrenched within the subject of race. Until we face the ongoing epidemic in front of our eyes the whitewashed narrative of the HIV AIDS crisis will continue to astound middle-class "whole families" nationwide while Black Americans who can't afford museum memberships continue to die in mass.

For inquiries and for the full transcript of our interview with curator Rock Hushka please contact  tacomaactioncollective@gmail.com

#DieInAtTAM will take place tonight (7pm) at Tacoma Art Museum.

To access this action through social media please refer to the following hashtags as well as our twitter account @tacoma_action

#DieInAtTAM  #StopErasingBlackPeople #BlackPOZlivesmatter #BlackTRANSlivesmatter #allBlacklivesmatter