June 3, 2020

A Statement from the Chair in a Time of National Crisis

A Statement from the Chair in a Time of National Crisis

(A statement by former Lewis Center for the Arts Chair Tracy K. Smith on June 3, 2020)

I hope all of you reading this now are safe and well, and that you’ve found clarity and purpose in community, your own personal work, and wherever else you look for solace.

I want to thank and commend our continuing students and our 2020 graduates for the extraordinary commitment they’ve demonstrated over the upheaval of the past semester. Their creative and academic work has been a source of hope and affirmation for the entire LCA community. I hope the celebration of student achievement on Class Day was a happy reminder of why we do what we do, and why art is essential to the health and survival of our culture.

The stakes of our current national crisis have risen exponentially in recent days. The very institution of American democracy seems genuinely to be imperiled. And while the level of threat Black Americans continue to live with every day has in no way diminished, the risks to any of us willing to speak out against police brutality is especially high.

I am reminded that the Lewis Center’s declared values of inclusion and diversity cannot be mere background values; we must work constantly to amplify, specify, and act upon our firmly held beliefs in all areas of our work. Because the work we do in our classrooms, studios and performance spaces is deeply relevant to the larger vision of social justice.

Black lives matter. Accountability for police brutality is essential. We value and seek to affirm the sense of worth and belonging of our many students from marginalized communities. We uphold the sanctity of every identity. Now and always we must make sure that this message is not merely visible but palpable, and that everything we do upholds these beliefs.

I’m pleased to share with you the LCA’s Climate & Inclusion Statement of Purpose, Principles, and Practices. Together with faculty and staff—and hopefully with your help as well—I’ll do my best as LCA Chair to foster an environment where these values are acted upon in meaningful ongoing ways.

In a world of high stakes, I recognize that the stakes of the work we do in the LCA are also high. I want to assure you of my intention to take careful and continual stock of who is and who is not being served by our efforts, and to find ways of doing more and doing better. We have to keep pace with the ever-changing terms with which our students—and our nation as a whole—are continually confronted. And weeks like this one show us how quickly things change.

I hope it goes without saying that because of your wide-array of lived-experience, values and perspectives, your input is essential to the mission of the LCA. Your honesty and expertise helps us to admit our own vulnerability, challenge our current understanding, and offer what we can to the immense task at hand. If there is more that you think the LCA should be doing, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly.

Thanks for all that you do, and all that you offer. Please accept my sincere wishes for your health, safety and happiness—and a special appeal for the safety of those in the communities that are being hit the hardest right now.


*Banner image: Mario Moore, Picturing Protest, 2019. Oil on linen. © Mario Moore

Press Contact

Steve Runk
Director of Communications