The death of George Floyd in May 2020 acted as a catalyst for us to look hard at the long and shameful history of abuse and violence towards Black people. Like many others, we have felt it necessary to embark on a process of profound reflection – interrogating all areas of our work to acknowledge racism and discrimination experienced by Black people within our sector.
We embrace this as the moment for us to take long-overdue action. As an organisation with a national remit, we recognise our responsibility not only to be actively anti-racist in all aspects of our own activity, but to promote and encourage anti-racist action through our networks across the country. In developing our policy and action plan against racism towards Black people, we will also address discrimination against other under represented groups.
To this end, we developed an action plan that we pledged to roll out by the end of 2020. We hold ourselves accountable for delivering on these commitments and recognise that this work is ongoing; we commit to doing the work, and to reporting against our progress on a regular basis.
Our Action Plan: July 2020
Addressing our history
As an organisation founded over 100 years ago, we know that our history may include connections to Britain’s colonialist past. We commit this year to commissioning research tasked with uncovering these connections, as they relate to individuals associated with the CAS, whether these are past donors of artworks or money, staff or any other aspects of our activity. We will commission the research in partnership with the Decolonising Arts Institute at UAL, and publish the results as a permanent resource on our website.¹
¹We are collaborating on a major UKRI AHRC bid led by University of the Arts London Decolonising Arts Institute, currently in development.
Working with our Member Museums
We will inform our Museum Members that we are embarking on this research with the objective of being transparent about and learning from our history. Where hitherto hidden and problematic histories are uncovered through this research, we will offer to work with our Museum Members to develop new interpretation materials to amplify the understanding of artworks that have entered their collections through the CAS.¹
We commit to making the decolonising of museums the central focus of our continuous professional development programme for museum professionals from autumn 2020. We will develop a sustained, year-long programme of monthly events in partnership with the Decolonising Arts Institute at UAL, redoubling our efforts to help Member Museums address the questions of representation and decolonisation within their collections.
We will support our Member Museums in their development of long-term collection strategies in relation to decolonisation, paying particular attention to each individual museum and the community they are operating in.
We recommit to the support of Black artists and artists from under-represented backgrounds through all strands of our museum acquisitions programmes, actively seeking ways in which to bring their work to wider attention, and thereby increase representation in UK museum collections.²
We recommit to the continued participation of Black and under-represented groups in decision-making committees such as the Acquisitions Advisory Committee.
¹Museum Members were notified in late June of the intention to undertake research work.
²So far in the current financial year (1 April 2020 – 31 March 2021) to date we have purchased work by 10 works by Black and other artists of colour for 10 museums. This constitutes 53% of the total work purchased so far this year.
So far in the financial year 2020/21, 51% of our overall investment in art has been in Black and other underrepresented artists.
2019/20 we acquired work by a total of 53 artists. Of these 11 identified BAME* (20.75%)
18/19 we acquired work by a total of 23 artists. Of these 9 identified BAME* (39%)
* this terminology used until 2020/21 financial year.
Governance and staff
Our Anti-racism action plan will now be a standing agenda item for monthly team meetings, and at all Board meetings.¹
We have held a series of plenary staff meetings at which to discuss our institutional response to the problem of racial injustice. Rather than convene a diversity task force as a subset of the staff, we consider anti-racism action to be the responsibility of the entire team. We will therefore continue to convene these meetings on a monthly basis from September 2020, as an essential forum for ongoing discussion around our actions towards becoming a manifestly anti-racist organisation.²
We will support all staff and Trustees to engage in anti-racist learning by providing them with the necessary resources.³
As an organisation we recognise the need to reflect the diversity of society through the composition of our staff and board of trustees.
We will advertise our vacancies, at every level across the organisation, in more diverse media outlets both online and in print, in order to reach a more representative spectrum of candidates.⁴
We recommit to increasing the diversity of the board of trustees as an ongoing and urgent priority.⁵
¹The Anti-Racism action plan is a standing item at all monthly staff meetings and at all board meetings.
²Three plenary staff meetings held autumn 2020 on 30.9.20, 30.11.20 and 7.12.2020 to discuss progress against Anti-Racism Action Plan
³Unconscious bias and Inclusion Awareness session for all staff held 3.12.20. We commit to running follow-up sessions annually.
⁴We have actively sought advice from larger arts organisations on channels for advertising job vacancies, so that we are better prepared to reach a diverse community when the next opportunity arises.
⁵Two new board members appointed December 2020: Shawanda Corbett and Soria Hamidi
We will ethically screen all external businesses we contract, including all suppliers of goods and services across the entire organisation, to ensure that they have an inclusivity and diversity policy in place, as part of an organisational culture of working towards being anti-racist.¹
¹Equal opportunity and anti-racist policies obtained from all existing regular suppliers.
Our Art Consultancy work
Our work on behalf of our clients includes commissioning artists and devising programme and cultural strategies. We recommit to ensuring equality of opportunity is built into all our projects and will redouble our efforts to ensure that our working methods and selection processes are free from systemic bias.
To that end we will develop a positive action policy statement to feature prominently in our marketing and communication materials, client proposals and website.
We will actively encourage our clients to adopt our policy through embedding it into arts and culture strategies, project delivery plans, artist briefs, the composition of decision-making panels and the engagement of artists.¹
We will focus our curatorial research on expanding our knowledge of Black artists and artists from other under-represented groups, ensuring that the artists we recommend reflect the diversity of society today.²
¹We are actively encouraging clients to develop diverse steering groups, and have renewed focus on developing diverse longlists of artists to propose to clients. This has resulted in the appointment of artists of colour to three commissions in 2020.
Development & Communications
All our external communications will accurately reflect the diversity of our public and professional programmes and reinforce our commitment to promote anti-racist action through our networks.¹
We will ensure that resources generated through our continuous professional development programme for museum members are widely promoted through our website and other media channels and that the language used is as accessible as possible.²
We will research best practice in the UK and internationally to understand how larger arts organisations apply anti-racist policy and strategies in their Development work.³
We commit to developing our patron programme to raise awareness of Black artists and artists from under represented backgrounds, and will develop strategies to diversify our supporter groups.⁴
We will share with our patrons our thinking around how we have changed and adapted our programme. We will provide clear messaging in how the CAS is approaching, responding to and investing in being an actively anti-racist organisation.
¹Our website and social media highlight the work we have done in promoting black artists and artists from other underrepresented groups.
²We have updated the resources available through our website, adding new texts and links to other media as we become aware of them.
³Auditing best practice in museum sector, looking at international as well as UK based examples
⁴Ensuring patron programme reflects our organisational commitment to anti-racist policy
Developing our database
We are currently well advanced in the development of a database of all the donations we have made to museums in our 110-year history. We commit to ensuring all our data is robustly accurate and representative before making it publicly available online.¹
We will research best practice and opportunities for collaboration with fellow organisations such as DACS and Art UK.²
We will confer with IPO and Art 360 for data on estate management and orphan works (where the rights holder cannot be traced) – to determine whether there is a disproportionate number of unknown / unattributed Black artists and artists from under represented backgrounds, in order to avoid similar misattribution on the CAS database. We will share our findings with museum colleagues through our CPD programme and with fellow organisations.³
¹The database team are continuing to log all provenance and rights holder information into our database and have added new fields to record artists’ nationality and ethnicity.
²The team are active in keeping abreast of developments within the industry and looking to other organisations who are carrying out similar work. Recently, this has included attending webinars on best practice and following debate surrounding historic cataloguing.
³We have also been made aware of a new Due Diligence search tool, funded by the European Commission, which will prove valuable in terms of identifying orphan works and logging that data before analysing it for any biases.