An Apology and a Commitment to the PAFA Community

Dear PAFA Faculty, Staff, Students, and Alumni,

I believe unequivocally that Black Lives Matter, and my colleagues and I declared PAFA’s solidarity with the movement and its principles on June 1. I write to humbly offer my sincere and deepest apology that my subsequent communications and actions have caused you to doubt that, and to acknowledge your anger and frustration with me.

The last week has been a painful time of reflection for me. I have thought of myself as a champion for diversity and inclusion, particularly by recognizing the achievements of artists of color and women artists, but recent press, emails, and social media posts demonstrate that I have fallen short of my own beliefs and PAFA’s stated Core Values of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. I am committed to the sweeping changes that must happen at PAFA and throughout our society to ensure that Black people have equal access to human rights, social justice, economic opportunity, education, housing, health, and human services.

I am determined and even more deeply resolved to commit PAFA and myself to achieving overarching change and to modeling the kind of deep and honest self- and institutional critique that are necessary to truly respect, honor, educate, and serve people of all backgrounds. I know there is much to do, and I will need to demonstrate through actions my commitment to dramatic and meaningful change.

I would like to acknowledge the important work that has been accomplished by PAFA’s Belonging Task Force, comprised of faculty, staff, and students under the leadership of Dr. Lisa Biagas, since its formation in 2018. They have conducted a HEDS campus climate survey that helped us to better understand the limits to the ways that our students, faculty, and staff feel heard, represented, and included at PAFA. Through many meetings, conversations, and deliberations, above and beyond their core responsibilities to learn, teach, and work, the Task Force’s members have developed a comprehensive 29-point plan, and we have begun to implement their recommendations. I am dedicated to accelerating the necessary steps they devised and to providing the resources necessary to do so. Our Board of Trustees has heard a report of their work, endorsed their plans, committed to support them, and asked for a quarterly report on achieving them.

Our immediate next steps are:

  • Partner with a nationally recognized consultant to analyze our successes and failures in addressing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at PAFA, to lead difficult discussions about our weaknesses and how they impact our most vulnerable students and community members.
  • Immediately hire a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Coordinator to assist PAFA in implementing the recommendations of the Belonging Task Force.
  • In the coming months, hire at least two full-time faculty members from communities of color to provide new perspectives in the classroom and mentorship beyond to our students.
  • Conduct an audit of the Museum’s permanent collection to identify works of art that depict, were made by, or originally owned by people associated with racism and slavery, and develop plans for corrective action.
  • Lead conversations with our key stakeholders to listen to your concerns, frustrations, and hopes for the future of PAFA.

I appreciate your vocal criticism. It demonstrates the passion, energy, and urgency that are necessary to accomplish the hard but necessary work ahead. I hope you will continue to hold me accountable and that as a vibrant community of students, faculty, staff, and alumni, you will also join me in accomplishing this essential work so that we can live up to PAFA’s ideals, as well as the brightest moments of our distinguished but imperfect history.

Sincerely,

David R. Brigham
President and CEO


About PAFA

Founded in 1805, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is America's first school and museum of fine arts. A recipient of the National Medal of Arts, PAFA offers undergraduate and graduate programs in the fine arts, innovative exhibitions of historic and contemporary American art, and a world-class collection of American art. PAFA’s esteemed alumni include Mary Cassatt, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Thomas Eakins, William Glackens, Barkley L. Hendricks, Violet Oakley, Louis Kahn, David Lynch, and Henry Ossawa Tanner.