Statement on the Brauer Museum of Art, Valparaiso University, February 16, 2023 

The faculty and staff representing the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee (UWM) Art History Department, Emile H. Mathis Art Gallery, and UWM Art Collection are strongly opposed to the deaccessioning and sale of works of art from the Brauer Museum to fund capital investments at Valparaiso University. As noted in the joint statement issued by the AAMD, AAMG, and AAMC, the view of cultural heritage as “disposable financial assets” is in direct opposition with the ethics of stewardship to which our institutions adhere. We urge the university to consider the policies of peer institutions like ours; the University of Wisconsin System Policy 335 (“Deaccessioning of Works of Art and Historical Treasures”) states that works of art “are held in furtherance of public service, rather than financial gain, and are not capitalized as their service potential and expected future benefits are difficult to quantify.” Per this policy, when deaccessioning occurs, any resulting funds “must be and remain trust assets of the respective center or gallery” and “may not be used for general support or capital expenses.” Moreover, the proposed deaccessioning of works by important American artists like Georgia O’Keeffe, Frederic Erwin Church, and Childe Hassam would diminish the quality of the Brauer Museum’s collections, and be detrimental to its core goals of collecting, preserving, studying, exhibiting, and teaching significant works of art.  

Academic art collections and museums, like the Brauer, are distinct sites of study and access for students to a significant type of pedagogy not offered elsewhere. These spaces and collections are influential particularly in representation. Women are a frequently underrepresented group in museum collections, making the proposed sale of a work by Georgia O’Keeffe particularly egregious.  

We sincerely hope that Valparaiso University will reconsider this proposed sale of works of art and update its policies to protect all objects of cultural heritage from deaccession and sale to support capital investments. 

Land Acknowledgement

“We acknowledge in Milwaukee that we are on traditional Potawatomi, Ho-Chunk and Menominee homeland along the southwest shores of Michigami, North America’s largest system of freshwater lakes, where the Milwaukee, Menominee, and Kinnickinnic rivers meet and the people of Wisconsin’s sovereign Anishinaabe, Ho-Chunk, Menominee, Oneida and Mohican nations remain present.”

Statement of Solidarity and Endorsement of the Asian Faculty & Staff Association (AFSA) Statement on Atlanta Murders and Call to Allies, April 16, 2021

The Art History faculty and staff stand in solidarity with the AFSA and commits itself to combat anti-Asian hate speech, anti-Asian violence, and anti-Asian bigotry in all its forms. At its April 16, 2021 department meeting, the faculty and staff unanimously endorsed the AFSA’s Statement on Atlanta Murders and Call to Allies:

“We are grieving, horrified, and outraged over the increase in anti-Asian violence in the United States and the avoidable tragedy of the murder of eight people, including six women of Asian descent, in Atlanta on March 16. These violent attacks pinpoint persistent racial discrimination and xenophobia in our society and reveal the complex intersectionality of race, gender, class, and immigration status.

Long before the Atlanta shooting, UWM Asian faculty, staff, and students were worried about the safety of themselves, their family, and friends, and called for solidarity against anti-Asian violence. Between March 19, 2020 and February 28, 2021, Stop AAPI Hate received reports of 3,795 incidents. In May 2020, AFSA issued a “Statement of Solidarity Against Anti-Asian Racism and Xenophobia”. One week before the Atlanta shooting, AFSA co-sponsored a panel, “Anti-Asian Violence During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” which covered a range of topics, including concrete actions against anti-Asian violence, the perniciousness of the “model minority myth” and the harm it does to Asian and other minoritized groups, and the institutions of white supremacy that fuels racism and discrimination against minority groups. Resources shared at that panel can be found here.

The Atlanta shooting demonstrates the consequences of rhetoric used and stereotypes perpetuated to describe women and the Asian community. There is an urgency for change and action to combat racism and xenophobia. AFSA is encouraged by the movement across the country and calls for action beyond written support at UWM.

Local communities and legislators have acted. Vigils and peaceful demonstrations against anti-Asian violence have took place across the country.[1] In Milwaukee, community leaders and city officials promptly acted to mourn the victims in the Atlanta shooting together outside of Milwaukee City Hall on March 18. On the same day, the House Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing on Discrimination and Violence Against Asian Americans.[2] On March 30, Biden announced actions to address violence against Asian Americans.

Locally and on campus, we call on allies and members of the UWM community to be in solidarity with the Asian community and to take action to learn about Asian American history, to become comfortable intervening in acts of overt aggression and microaggressions that impact Asian group members and members of other marginalized groups, engage in practices that disrupt the historic and institutional systems of oppression that give rise to these xenophobic actions, and to lend direct support to Asian business, individuals, and community organizations. We write in solidarity against anti-Asian racism and in multi-racial solidarity with our Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Muslim, immigrant, LGBTQIA, and other minoritized communities that have victims of violence. And we write in hopes that members of the UWM family will be empowered to speak out in defense of the safety and well-being our communities.”

[2] Discrimination and Violence Against Asian Americans | U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee

Endorsed by UWM’s Faculty Senate, FD 3328, unanimously on April 15, 2021.

Statement of Solidarity, Issued June 5, 2020

“As we witness our community confront systemic racism, social and economic injustices, and unequal access that have long plagued our city, the Department of Art History at UWM unequivocally affirms that Black Lives Matter. We condemn police brutality in all its forms and we stand with the protestors who are putting themselves in harm’s way to combat racism and inequality. We pledge to be anti-racist. We pledge to create an open, inclusive, and safe environment. And we pledge introspection to see how we can use our privilege to work on behalf of, and with, others to fight injustice and help change the course.”

Statement of Principles, Issued November 21, 2016

“In the aftermath of the 2016 elections, the UWM Department of Art History wishes to reaffirm its unwavering commitment to our students and to the department’s stated mission: to foster an appreciation of art in its myriad forms and, in so doing, increase sensitivity to cultural diversity and to the ways in which the past has shaped the present. The visual analysis skills that students learn in our courses are foundational to agile and creative thought; they are intended to bolster empathetic understanding of identity and its diversities, to include matters of culture, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, and sexual orientation. We remain committed to a campus and classroom environment unimpeded by prejudice, bigotry, and hate. The faculty and instructional staff unequivocally condemn unjust rhetoric that targets the most vulnerable on our campus and in our community, and indeed all racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, homophobic, sexist, and other hate speech and acts. In keeping with the principles of the Wisconsin Idea, we reassert our fundamental commitment to academic freedom, the search for truth, and the improvement of the human condition.”