May 31, 2020

Reflections on civil unrest

Dear ArtCenter Community,

This note is meant, at least partially, as a personal reflection offered in the context of the suffering and struggle that surrounds us. I have been engaged in some very powerful and heartfelt conversations over the last several days. Members of our community—faculty, staff and students—have communicated to me deep and important concerns about the state of our world, concerns that I share and that I find stirring and heartbreaking.I am compelled to reach out in turn to all of you.

The pandemic has been an enormous challenge, not just because of the disruption it brought to our lives, but because it gave evidence, yet again, of the inequities of our world and the disproportionate suffering that results. And that painful reality turned into a glaring reminder of even deeper trauma last week as a White woman in New York’s Central Park called police to report—erroneously—that an African-American man was threatening her. The next day the nightmare grew as we witnessed the horrifying video of the murder of George Floyd. How do we cope with that terror, with that atrocity, with that indelible image of a White police officer pressing his knee on the neck of a Black man who was gasping “I can’t breathe” until his body finally gave out? And all of this following the devastating killings of Ahmaud Arbery in February and Breonna Taylor in March and so many other horrors before them. To echo the sentiments of Michelle Obama, we are “exhausted by a heartbreak that never seems to stop.”

I grapple with it all, as I know many of you do. The questions are exceedingly difficult and range from the universal to the deeply personal. What do these repeated tragedies say about the America we are and wish it to be? And how can I, as a man who walks through the world in white skin, search my own soul and help to create change in the most meaningful way? As many have pointed out, we are all implicated systemically and called upon to take action.

And, so, as rage and grief pour out onto our streets, how can ArtCenter, in all its creative power, participate in healing the pervasiveness of hate and racism that afflicts us—and has done so for generations?

I have asked our chief diversity officer Dr. Aaron Bruce to work with me and College leadership to help mobilize our community.  We will be reaching out to you in the next several days with opportunities to participate in a variety of conversations and constructive action to take steps of meaningful response.

I end with this word of hope—we, as creatives, have a power to make a difference. We know something about addressing problems and giving voice to injustice. Let us leverage that strength to begin a healing that only a community like ArtCenter can effect. Let us summon the courage to influence change.

With warmth and care,

Lorne M. Buchman

ArtCenter College of Design