Departmental Commitment to Antiracism

Art History, Theory and Criticism at SAIC Departmental Commitment to Antiracism

March 2021

In light of the recent murders of Asian women in Georgia and systemic violence against Asians in America, we offer these resources in solidarity with the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.

Advancing Justice - Chicago
Axis Lab - Racial Solidarity

August 2020

We, as a department, acknowledge that the academic field of Art History is not separate from social and historical events or dynamics. As such, Art History as a field reflects the paradigms of structural racism in the United States and the larger world amid colonialism and neo-colonialism—projects of domination and white supremacy that continue today.

In the last fifteen years, our department has made efforts to counter racist dynamics in the field and at SAIC by expanding course offerings and hiring full-time specialists in fields such as African, African-American, Latin American and Asian art history. While these efforts have, on the curricular level, contributed to a decentering of the North Atlantic canon, they have, quite simply, not been enough. The department presently does not have a single Black full-time faculty member. Students have repeatedly expressed concerns about how BIPOC art histories are taught; about microaggressions in the classroom; about a need for more sensitivity in how knowledge related to Black and Brown people is introduced to our students—particularly when faculty introduce material that is not directly linked to their own backgrounds.

We have to do better and are committed to doing better. We hereby pledge following the action items:

  • We renew our commitment to robust offerings on histories of art, design and activism related to BIPOC, non-Western and racialized minority communities every semester, regardless of administrative commitments of the specialists who normally teach them.
  • Our system of labeling courses and diversifying their content must and will be improved so that those classes—including introductory surveys (ARTHI 1001 - 1002)—with substantial emphases on Black and Brown art and design history are clearly available to students. 
  • That said, we affirm as a department that Black and Brown art and design history, as well as the legacy of systemic racism, is relevant material in all of our course offerings-- and that we need to do more to address these histories as teachers. 
  • We will continue the overhaul of our introductory surveys that began with ARTHI 1001, which now has a guidebook that outlines significant expectations in terms of broad cultural coverage. Our focus will next shift to ARTHI 1002, which covers Modern and Contemporary Art. The department’s Curriculum Committee will look to address such changes in terms of course content.
  • To these ends, we will establish student chairs at both the BA and MA level on our Curriculum Committee, to assure that feedback from the student body directly affects ongoing curricular changes.
  • The Department additionally looks forward to workshops related to critical race pedagogy for our faculty, mediated by Dio Aldridge at SAIC’s Diversity Action Group. Opportunities will be presented for students to directly address faculty about specific moments in the classroom that need to be reconsidered. This is self-reflective work that all of our faculty can and desire to take on for themselves to improve as teachers and allies against white supremacy on our campus.
  • We further recognize the adjacency of decolonial and antiracist pedagogies as they pertain to the School’s international community.
  • Recognizing the financial strains of the current moment, we pledge to prioritize diverse hiring practices. We also support the demands of Black Faculty at SAIC to raise the position of Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to a VP position and expand the office's staff and purview in order to assist with departmental concerns along with the larger institutional priorities. 

This statement has been drafted and reviewed by full-time faculty in the Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism, and has the ethical weight of a contract. By signing, we collectively commit to it.

Our department is committed to the ongoing efforts to combat white supremacy and police violence as led by Black youth in this country and joined by thousands. We are committed to racial justice and see our work as scholars and critics as deeply intertwined with ongoing struggles for liberation. 

In an effort to use our institutional status as a platform, we have compiled an immediate and incomplete list of resources as a tiny gesture of solidarity with our students, faculty colleagues, staff, and everyone in the streets.