In September, The Phillips Collection hosted a special tour and conversation with members of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., an international public service organization headquartered in Washington, DC. We welcomed Delta Sigma Theta’s Committee on Arts and Letters Committee, which strives to advance African-American artists, art works, and organizations who foster this same mission. As you can imagine, this event brought forth a vibrant dialogue!
A guided tour with a gallery educator revealed a myriad of interesting insights; namely that some of the challenges Aboriginal Australian women experience mirror those of women of color in the US. These challenges, many spurred by the impact of colonialism and racial injustice, also revolved around access, equity, and visibility in the arts and beyond.
Links were easily made between indigenous Australian art and African art. Many likened the woven patterns to the widely known textiles of West Africa such as kente and batik. Designs, colors, and patterns inspired by nature gave way to movement, life, and energy in the fabrics. Some even reflected on the link to the Quilts of Gee’s Bend from Alabama. To our guests, the artworks communicated a narrative that connected aboriginal Australians to the African diaspora. This is an important lesson for any museum and one that the Phillips will be contemplating: depending on the background of the viewer, artwork can take on new meaning and life.
Art in all forms is a vehicle not just for expression but also social justice and change. The Phillips Collection has always leaned forward in this mission, incorporating the ethos of our founder, Duncan Phillips, as a progressive thinker and champion for many social causes. As our city and nation becomes more diverse, the Phillips actively works to reflect that diversity and to be accessible to all our audiences. Events such as this are a perfect and strategic collaboration for the museum that allow us to engage with and learn from public service, civic and social justice organizations like Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Conversations that emerge from this and future opportunities will continue to inform all facets of our work.
We look forward to more events and lively conversations with community partners. If you or your organization are interested in partnering with The Phillips, please reach out to our Manager of Marketing and Partnerships, Lia Seremetis, at firstname.lastname@example.org.