Dallas Contemporary Criticized Amidst Termination Of Employees and Delayed Anti-Hate Statement

by Christopher Blay April 8, 2021
Dallas Contemporary art museum in Dallas Texas

Dallas Contemporary

Dallas-based artist Ciara Elle Bryant, a former employee of the Dallas Contemporary (DC) reached out to Glasstire alleging her termination from the organization for what she says the DC described as “low visitor turn out.” Bryant, who was employed by DC as a Learning & Visitors Service Associate, also alleged, in a since-removed video from her Instagram account, that she found the timing of termination too coincidental to not be related to emails she sent to the staff of the DC urging the institution to make an anti-hate statement in support of Asian-Americans.

Glasstire has reached out to the Dallas Contemporary’s Director, Peter Doroshenko, for comment and so far has not received a response. We will update this story with any response we receive.

Bryant’s email to the DC staff, dated March 26, 2021, had the following subject line: “DC needs to make a statement Asian Hate Crime.” In the email, Bryant notes the DC’s current exhibitions of works by Asian artists, including the major show of works by Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara. Bryant sent the email to DC staff in the wake of the March 16 murders, by a mass shooter, of eight people in Atlanta, six of whom were women of Asian descent. Many businesses, non-profits, and individuals across the country and the globe issued statements of solidarity for the Asian community in the days immediately following the event.

Ciara Elle Bryant, winner of the Inaugural CADD X Maddrey PLLC Artist Prize in Dallas.

Ciara Elle Bryant

“To not make a statement or any effort to support Asian Americans at this time is disgraceful. It’s been weeks since this has been mainstream news and we just opened a huge exhibition without saying a peep about these hate crimes,” Bryant stated, in part, in her email to DC staff.

On March 31, a post on the anonymous Instagram account Dallas Art Critic related the allegations regarding Bryant’s termination from the DC, stating (in part): “Shortly afterwards, that staff member and another one were fired. On the last day of Women’s Month, two women are fired for using their voice to show concern for others.”

Another staffer on DC’s Visitor Services team, Carrie Horton, was let go by DC at or around the same time Bryant was. According to Bryant (in a text to Glasstire), Horton “was integral” to the discussion brought forth by DC’s Visitor Services staff requesting that DC make a public solidarity statement.

For its part, Dallas Contemporary made the following statement on its Instagram page on April 2:

Dallas Contemporary Statement, via Instagram

The Dallas Contemporary’s Statement, via Instagram.

“To our community — As our country continues to grapple with the disturbing rise in xenophobia, racism and discrimination against marginalized communities, including recent hate crimes against the AAPI community, we want to be clear: we condemn this violence, and any form of racism or discrimination wholeheartedly.

“This continued commitment to inclusion and diversity is particularly apparent in our current program which, at this time, highlights the work of two Asian artists, Liu Xiaodong and Yoshitomo Nara. These exhibitions have taken many years to realize and were delayed until recently due to COVID-19. They remain on view for several more months, include evergreen learning components, and are representative of our commitment to showcasing and supporting artists from diverse backgrounds.

“In addition to the exhibitions and programming already in place, we have been in the process of planning public programs that reflect our commitment to diversity, stand in solidarity with our AAPI community, and provide an impactful dialogue around the urgent topics that artists such as Liu Xiaodong and Yoshitomo Nara have long addressed in their work. We look forward to sharing these events with you in the very near future and inviting you to join the dialogue.”

On social media, responses to the above statement by artists and community members have been critical about the timing of Bryant’s reported termination and the timing of the statement itself:

-@Jordanro2 [Jordon Roth, owner of Ro2 Art in Dallas] writes:

And on June 5, your email to members read “In the coming weeks we will be announcing actions we are taking as an institution to better serve and represent black, and all marginalized communities. There is a long road ahead of us and we are committed to doing the work, fostering allyship and having an active role in dismantling systemic racism.”. What actions have you taken to foster allyship since then? .You missed your opportunity to “stand in solidarity with our AAPI community” weeks ago. Why start now.? The virtue signaling is insincere and screw your “evergreen learning components.”.Please! It’s all bs. Just go back to doing fashion shows, big parties. and “becoming a magazine.” You’ve proven to be incapable of setting an example for the communities you’re supposed to serve as a partially public funded organization.

@_not_jack_white [artist Liz Trosper] writes:

Why was it such a big deal NOT to post this? I don’t understand what kind of control freak reactionary politics are going on behind the scenes that a nothing burger statement like this takes weeks and public outcry to make. Something is rotten in Denmark. Like showing John Currin post me too and BLM… There are some seriously out of touch people making decisions for the one institution that is supposed to be representing contemporary art not being a puppet to generic ny gallery x…. There seems to be little knowledge of or commitment to what art means here and now.

@david.willburn.studio [artist David Willburn] writes:

You fired two people for making a statement you refused to make. And now you (kind of) make it. Shame.


Update 4-8-21: Glasstire, in response to a request for comment, received this reply via email from DC this afternoon:

Thank you for reaching out to Dallas Contemporary for comment. Dallas Contemporary is an equal opportunity employer and as per its privacy policy the museum does not comment on internal personnel matters.

As Dallas Contemporary’s mission statement relays, its aim is to present the art of its time to the public: to document new directions in art through rotating exhibitions, publications, and learning programs for visitors of all ages. As a contemporary arts institution that embraces diversity and inclusiveness and that grapples with timely and complex issues in one of the fastest growing metroplexes in our nation, Dallas Contemporary firmly believes in the power of artists’ ideas and voices to chronicle and transform society. 

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