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Diversity, creativity and a new voice for the arts: Why I'm launching 'Colored Criticism'

By Tiffany BradleyJune 21, 2015

The rain room exhibit at MoMa New York
The rain room exhibit at MoMa New York Mario Tama/Getty Images

I don't have an art history degree.

I say this, because I am asked this question a few times a week. As I describe my web series, Colored Criticism, to friends, strangers, and collaborators, I keep getting the same question — in the bank, in the yoga studio, at meetings.

I don't have an art history degree, but I launched a series on contemporary art. This shouldn't be a contradiction. And this is one of the primary reasons I started Colored Criticism. There isn't any one credential that makes you informed about art.


There isn't any one credential that makes you informed about art

My series aims to bring new voices into the arts conversation, as we all have important opinions and reflections on culture. Our world is increasingly visual. Our technology is filled with pictures — Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, even Tinder. We're scouting public art for our selfies, wearing the latest Uniqlo & MoMA collaboration, and enjoying Andy Warhol's 15 minutes of fame. Yet we still fall into some uncomfortable assumptions about who works in the arts sector. These assumptions are based on race, class, education and access.

So how do we break down the assumptions? By telling new stories. As Darren Walker of the Ford Foundation recently said, "We see dominant cultural narratives that undermine fairness, tolerance and inclusion …Combatting narratives of intolerance requires powerful counternarratives that embrace, and truly celebrate, diversity and inclusion."


Our world is increasingly visual. Our technology is filled with pictures — Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, even Tinder. We're scouting public art for our selfies, wearing the latest Uniqlo & MoMA collaboration, and enjoying Andy Warhol's 15 minutes of fame

At Colored Criticism, I've asked some of the smartest people I know to tell their arts stories. They don't look like the typical arts expert, but they bring a wealth of knowledge about creativity. Our first guest, Lauren Chief Elk, uses data mapping to highlight violence against Native women and work towards solutions. Our next guest, Belinda Becker, uses dance and music to build a progressive community. Both can speak plainly, while still grounded in critical theory, about the arts. We need to hear from more people like them.

Art historians and curators shape the narrative of an exhibition, but they don't own the story. There are so many hands that go into our arts experiences: registrars, exhibition designers, arts educators, marketing specialists, visitor services experts, collectors, art handlers, gallerists, and grantmakers. That doesn't even count some of the non-traditional spaces supporting emerging, under-the-radar artists. If we don't cultivate the next generation of arts lovers, we will lose out on the next generation of arts workers. And that's a loss to our sector. Millennials are some of the most vibrant, opinionated creators out there. We need to be creating more pathways into the arts. And that means giving everyone a voice.