by Mary Holland, Rokeby Museum Trustee
At Rokeby Museum we have embarked on the challenge of adding advocacy for social and racial justice to our mission. In light of renewed efforts to disrupt and dispel white supremacy after the murder of George Floyd, I have been thinking about what this means. Much of my reading has been helpful, but nothing so much as the words of Bettina Love in an interview just over a year ago.
A professor of education at the University of Georgia, Dr. Love’s writing, research, teaching, and activism meet at the intersection of race, education, abolition. In a 2019 interview (see excerpt below), she responded to a question about the role of whites in the movement by drawing a compelling distinction between allies and co-conspirators. Allies, she said, read the books, go to the meetings, attend rallies, know the rhetoric, provide financial and moral support. They are important, but they are not co-conspirators. Co-conspirators, she argued, do something more—they put themselves and their privilege on the line. They use their whiteness and spend their capitol.Read More
Inspired by Rachael Robinson Elmer (1878–1919) and taught by Courtney Clinton, Rokeby Artist in Residence
My name is Courtney Clinton, I am a Montreal-based artist whose practice focuses on art history and drawing. This summer, I am the artist in residence at the Rokeby Museum.
In fall 2019, I visited the Rokeby Museum as part of the Contemporary Art at Rokeby Artist Lab organized by curator Ric Kasini Kadour. In the museum’s archive of the family’s letters and artifacts, I discovered the original letters (dated 1891–1893) from a correspondence drawing course that one of the daughters, Rachael Robinson Elmer (1878–1919), took as an adolescent.
Rachael was part of four generations of Robinsons that made Rokeby their home. Rachael would eventually move to New York to study at the Art Students League and go on to be an important book illustrator — an esteemed position for artists of the day. In 1914, Rachael designed and published a series of watercolour postcards, Art Lover’s New York. This work garnered her national acclaim and is now part of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., collection.
Catherine Brooks, the Rokeby Director, and I agreed that exploring this correspondence course now, during the COVID-19 crisis, is a way to start a timely conversation around remote education. Despite the American-Canadian border closure, the museum is generously making their archives available to me through a digital collaboration between myself and Rokeby’s Education and Interpretation Fellow, Allison Gregory.
Each week I will share with you an exercise from the 1890s drawing course and together we will work through it using pictures demonstrating the lesson and written steps. We will also explore Rokeby’s collection of Rachael’s drawings and paintings, and talk about her journey to become a recognized 20th century illustrator. My collaboration with the Rokeby Museum, and this adventure with you, presents an opportunity to test and expand upon the possibilities of remote learning and remote collaboration. So let’s get started!Read More
The house tour is an intimate experience, during which visitors encounter the stories of all four generations of the Robinsons on their own terms — and in their own spaces. Due to COVID-19, house tours are not available at this time, but check back. An alternative experience may be available soon.
by Priscilla Baker, Rokeby Museum Trustee
Vermont is home to over 1,200 Latinx farm workers, most from southern Mexico and Central America. Several hundred live and work in Addison County.
While some would call the labor of immigrant farm workers “unskilled,” this is an unfortunate misnomer according to Teresa Mares, UVM professor and author of the book, Life on the Other Border: Farmworkers and Food Justice in Vermont.
When Dr. Mares spoke at Rokeby Museum in July, 2019, she made a strong point that the work these farmers do requires a variety of skills and is often dangerous. Further, the suffering and the daily challenges immigrant workers face remain invisible to mainstream Vermonters. Always vulnerable to the fluctuations of the dairy industry and the needs of each individual farm and farmer, immigrant farm workers live with the anxiety of job insecurity, the physical toll of hard work, and the fear of being picked up by ICE.Read More
by Richard Bernstein, M.D., Rokeby Museum Trustee
“A common danger unites even the bitterest of enemies,” said the philosopher Aristotle. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed fault lines that separate people of color and whites, and it continues to shine a light on the terrible effect that white supremacy and structural racism have had historically in America.
COVID Emerges, and with It, Disparities
Although the first known case in the U.S. was January 20, 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t make it into national news until early February. Several weeks later, on March 27, five U.S. lawmakers (Sens. Harris, Brooker, Warren, Pressley, and Rep. Kelly) pressed the agency of Health and Human Services to release available data on the racial disparity of infection and death rates in the country. The American Medical Association followed with their demand for release of racial data on April 3. The data showed that 30% of COVID-19 cases occurred among African Americans, who make up about 13% of the population. In some places the incidence was even higher: In Louisiana, 70% of victims were African Americans; in Alabama, 44%; in Milwaukee, 39%.
This disparity shocked no one, especially Dr. Uché Blackstock, a physician working in Brooklyn. Speaking on Public Radio’s Science Friday, Dr. Blackstock noted that staff were being pulled from immediate-care health centers in the white sections of the New York borough, where they were underutilized, and transferred to the health centers in the black sections which were seeing a huge increase in the new illness.