In Light of Charlottesville, VMFA Highlights Mission of Inclusion Through New Exhibit

Aug 17, 2017

Hear My Voice: Native American Art of the Past and Present, a new exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts that explores conversations between Native Americans and their art, is set to open this weekend.
Credit Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

With talk of Charlottesville and Civil War monuments dominating the news cycle, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Director addressed the institution's Confederate past while looking forward to its future Thursday morning. A new exhibit, highlighting the artistic legacy of Native Americans, hopes to reinforce the museum’s long-time message of inclusion.

With wounds still open across the state, it was hard for VMFA director Alex Nyerges to not address his institution’s connection to the battle over confederate monuments. Once a retirement home for Confederate veterans called “Robert E. Lee Camp No. 1,” a former Confederate Memorial chapel still sits on the museum’s grounds. Confederate flags hung from the chapel until 2010 when an agreement was reached between the VMFA and the Sons of Confederate Veterans.  Confederate heritage groups still occasionally protest that decision. 

“We removed the flags from the chapel a number of years ago in the same spirit that people are talking about monuments and everything else.”

Nyerges spoke at the opening of “Hear My Voice”-- an exhibit highlighting Native American’s artistic legacy here in the Commonwealth and across the country. He hopes the new exhibit, which includes audio and video recordings of the artists, speaks to the institution’s commitment to “everybody.”

“For not just hundreds of years, but millennia, the people, the Native Americans in this country, on both continents, have been making a visual legacy, and more important they are counting to do so in a brilliant manor.” 

Hear my Voice is in Richmond now through late November. Then it will travel to the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke before rounding out its tour at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley in Winchester in 2018.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association