Black Lives Matter

The Lilley Museum of Art, since its inception in 2019, has focused on reflecting the diversity of society through art inside our walls. We are aware that museums were founded within the structures of colonization and exploitation, and have thus systematically excluded minority groups throughout time. Despite the attempt of many museum professionals to decolonize museums, these concepts are still deeply entrenched in some of our practices. Most museums in the United States still have more than 80% of their collections comprised of white artists and almost 90% of these are male. However, our foundations should not dictate who we are today. Our past should serve as a vehicle to undo oppressive structures. We believe art has the power to forge relationships, create a sense of belonging in diverse communities and be used as a tool for change — a tool to combat racism and inequality.

Even though we are a fairly new museum, we inherited a collection with roots in the 1960s. It is no surprise that this collection does not have many works by non-Western artists or artists of color, as these artists have been historically overlooked and often ignored. It is our absolute goal to remediate this imbalance in our collection and acquire works that reflect the multiplicity of our society. Our Board of Advisors is currently working on diversifying its members and reviewing its governance. We want change to come from within, from our core structure. We pledge to be transparent with respect to changes we intend to make and welcome criticism and feedback from the communities we serve.

We will continue to reimagine our exhibitions and events to ensure they highlight and feature underrepresented artists. We want The Lilley to become a commons—a safe place, where our communities feel welcomed, heard, and represented. We want our programming and exhibition calendar to ignite dialogs and offer patrons the opportunity to reflect on issues of race, politics, decolonization, and inequality. As an academic museum, we believe knowledge is power, and art can build bridges between diverse people and communities, especially during troubling times.

As curator La Tanya Autry and Museum Educator Mike Murawski accurately state, “Museums are not neutral.” Museums cannot afford to live in the illusion of political neutrality and remain complacent. We, as art institutions, must take bold steps to address and dismantle institutional racism and use our power for social change. The Lilley stands in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, our local Reno community and all of those around the world standing up against racism, inequality and police brutality. We vow to act through our programming, exhibition calendar, acquisitions and events to amplify the voices of those who have been historically silenced.

In memory of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, George Floyd and all the victims of racism and policy brutality, we say their names and honor their lives.

Vivian Zavataro
Director, John & Geraldine Lilley Museum of Art