About this online emergency forum

Thank you for joining us for ART • WORK • PLACE: Emergency Session III. The series has continued to grow, with over 800 attendees tuning in to the forum to envision possibilities for creating a new arts space and a new world. The events of the past few months have put the need for these efforts into immediate and stark relief and have provided an opening to actualize a new order centered on the imagination of Black, Indigenous and People of Color voices and built upon ideas of solidarity and abundance.

Thank you for sharing your enthusiasm and questions during the evening. We would also love to hear your feedback about this event and suggestions for future programming. The video documentation is available here.

List of resources shared in this session.

Watch the video for this event below:

With Kemi Ilesanmi, Tavia Nyong’o, Shani Peters, Michael Rakowitz and respondents M. Carmen Lane and Alli Pullagura

Radical imagination and speculative futures animate this third and final emergency session of Art • Work • Place. The coronavirus continues to stalk society, but the fear has broken—and something like possibility has emerged. Protesters have taken over the streets in all fifty states, and across the world. As monuments topple, demands to defund or abolish the police are intensifying.

White leadership within the museum-industrial complex is now scrambling to claim solidarity with Black communities—in words that suggest racism is an external problem. Mere months after mass firings and layoffs, MoMA announced a commitment to “equity and justice,” while it continues to profit from prisons. The New Museum offered sympathy (“our hearts break”), then quietly boarded up its windows. If the Guggenheim supports “collective action,” it might begin by negotiating with its union. But the old guard of cultural institutions, founded on white privilege and wealth extraction, won’t take steps to dismantle white supremacy.

Black, Indigenous, and POC art workers and activists—often overlooked or tokenized—have already mapped out what is possible, while artists envision what comes next. In the first hour of this forum, Kemi Ilesanmi, Tavia Nyong’o, Shani Peters, and Michael Rakowitz will discuss how to build an art world that centers BIPOC voices, tears down racist structures, and works toward decolonization; in the second hour, a town hall will begin with responses from M. Carmen Lane and Anni Pullagura, before opening to audience discussion. Black Lives Matter is not a magical incantation, a phrase to be absorbed and neutralized. Black Lives Matter is a movement, and a call for action.

Closed captioning and ASL interpretation will be available.


Kemi Ilesanmi is the executive director of the Laundromat Project, in New York, a POC-centered organization that connects artists and communities.

Tavia Nyong’o is a professor of African-American Studies, American Studies, and Theater and Performance Studies at Yale University. He is the author of Afro-Fabulations: The Queer Drama of Black Life (2018).

Shani Peters is an artist based in New York. She co-founded the Black School, an experimental art school that teaches radical Black history and art through workshops, public projects, design services, and exhibitions.

Michael Rakowitz is an artist based in Chicago. He is an associate professor in the department of Art Theory and Practice at Northwestern University.


M. Carmen Lane is an artist and facilitator based in Cleveland. They are the founder of ATNSC: Center for Healing & Creative Leadership, an artist-run space that offers workshops, residencies, and a gallery.

Anni Pullagura is a PhD candidate in the department of American Studies and an MA candidate in the department of the History of Art and Architecture at Brown University. She is a curatorial assistant at the ICA Boston.

The organizers have budgeted direct aid to groups and individuals in need as part of this event. For more information, please click here.

Please submit questions for discussion in the breakout sessions here.

A description and video documentation of the first Emergency Session (and a list of shared resources) can be found here, and the the second Emergency Session can be found here.

Organized by Nikki Columbus and Michelle Millar Fisher, with the PhD Program in Art History (CUNY Graduate Center), in collaboration with the James Gallery/Center for the Humanities (CUNY Graduate Center) and the Vera List Center for Art and Politics (The New School), where it is sponsored in part by the Helen Shapiro Lectureship.