Meet Archy LaSalle
Q: Can you tell us a little about WHERE ARE ALL THE BLACK PEOPLE AT? What are its goals, and how are you pursuing them?
Our mission at WHERE ARE ALL THE BLACK PEOPLE AT is to reach out to art institutions and to bring awareness to the lack of representation of Black and Brown artists in the permanent collection. I believe that we continue to be effective with our communication, our research, and our passion for change. It’s exciting to meet with Directors and Curators and find that we have similar goals, such as at a recent meeting with the curators from the Peabody Essex Museum. As awareness has grown, we have seen action taken to make substantive changes, but there is a lot of work ahead.
Q: Have you seen progress over time, and can you share an example or two?
There is progress with regards to changes in individual museums, however we are talking about systemic racism and there is no quick fix to the extent of the problem. We need everyone to speak out and demand change in all of our institutions, which includes all visual and performing arts. To cite some museums and art institutions that have been greatly responsive to our work, I would say the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University and Fitchburg Art Museum.
Q: As art consumers, what can we do on our end to help ensure we all have access to works by diverse artists, in museums, in stores, in public art and so on?
Our museums hold the history of art in our communities and country. When a large group of people are excluded or underrepresented, the history is incomplete and inaccurate, which impacts us all. We all need to demand that our art institutions reflect the world we live in today and for future generations. Everyone has been deprived for decades of great art by Black and Brown artists. Since the root of systemic racism is reflected in the permanent collections of art institutions, members and art enthusiasts need to speak out to facilitate change.
Q: What do you think will surprise people about the inequity in the arts?
There was a Williams College study done in 2019 looking at the collection of 18 major US museums to quantify the gender, ethnic, and racial composition of the artists represented in their collection. The study found that 85.4% of the collections belong to white artists and 87.4% are by men. African American artists have the lowest share with 1.2% of the works; Asian artists total at 9%: and Hispanic and Latino artists constitute only 2.8% of the artists.
Q: What else you are involved with?
I taught photography for over 25 years and still work is a fine art photographer. As an educator, I continue to work with a younger generation of BIPOC artists. I am the vice chair of the Watertown Public Arts and Culture Committee. We recently had the opening for the Community Sculpture Park -- please check it out! In addition, I am on the board of advisors at the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University.