Detroit's MOCAD pledges sweeping reforms ahead of rescheduled New Red Order show


  • Courtesy of MOCAD

The Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit has pledged to make sweeping reforms following this summer's turmoil, which has seen a leadership shakeup and an anticipated show by Indigenous artists postponed.

On Thursday, the museum announced that New Red Order's Crimes Against Reality, originally scheduled to open on July 2, is now finally open to the public across two of the museum's galleries.

In July, dozens of MOCAD staffers came forward to the museum's board, alleging a toxic workplace and instances of racism. As a sign of solidarity, New Red Order told the museum to postpone its show until the museum's board addressed the staff members' concerns, and following the allegations, the museum ousted its executive director and rehired senior curator Jova Lynne.

In a press release sent on Thursday, MOCAD announced changes meant "to dismantle the ongoing effects of settler colonialism and to serve Detroit's Indigenous communities, as well as implement substantial changes in museum staffing, board, and labor practices brought forward by former MOCAD employees and current staff." It also includes working to increase the diversity of the museum's board "so that ⅓ of the board will reflect economically and racially diverse communities."

In a statement, the museum thanked New Red Order for pushing it. "The work of NRO and this exhibition has been instrumental in setting forth institutional change," the museum wrote in a statement. "MOCAD is grateful for NRO’s creativity, engagement and leadership in facilitating social change through artistic practice."

The museum says it is also making progress on adopting a "land acknowledgement" practice, or a formal statement recognizing the Indigenous people who originally inhabited the land. The practice is catching on in the United States. In 2018 New Red Order helped New York City's Whitney Museum of American Art work toward a land acknowledgement practice.

To that end, MOCAD says it is working to establish an Indigenous community council "to develop an ongoing Land Acknowledgment practice that includes a commitment to working to dismantle the ongoing effects of settler colonialism, and to serve Detroit’s Indigenous communities, which will be accompanied by a list of concrete actions MOCAD will take that demonstrate this commitment." The museum says it is also setting aside a budget to "support future programming aiming to amplify the voices of Indigenous Peoples."

The museum says it hopes to be able announce details regarding the land acknowledgement practice ahead of its forthcoming winter season.

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