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Cultural Institutions and Organizations Condemn Trump’s Travel Ban

Following President Trump’s executive order limiting travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, cultural groups and organizations have issued statements against the ban.

The demonstration at JFK airport in New York on January 28 against the travel ban from Trump’s January 27 executive order (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)

Following the January 27 executive order signed by President Trump that bans travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, several cultural institutions and groups have issued statements of solidarity with those immediately impacted in their community. Others, like the Getty, have emphasized the potentially severe impact on scholarly exchange, while Studio Libeskind stated that it is “actively boycotting companies that support the current administration’s policies.”

Although CNN reported today that the administration is backpedaling on restrictions to legal permanent residents with green cards, thousands of immigrants remain unable to visit family in these countries without risk of losing their legal residency status. The New York Times reported that along with the suspended entry for 120 days for refugees and 90-day block for the seven countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen), the State Department “announced that it was revoking the visas of all nationals from those countries, without notifying them, even those who are legally studying, working and living in the United States.”

The demonstration at JFK airport in New York on January 28 against the travel ban from Trump’s January 27 executive order. The sign references Emma Lazarus’s poem “The New Colossus” that is engraved on the Statue of Liberty (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)

Below is a brief list of some cultural institutions that have issued statements in response to the travel ban:

The Getty

James Cuno, president of the J. Paul Getty Trust that operates the Getty Museum, shared a statement on February 1 entitled “The Travel Ban Is Just Wrong”:

If it continues, the travel ban will extract a high human cost in lost freedoms, livelihoods, and careers, as well as a high social cost in lost innovation and discovery. It may have a profoundly adverse effect on important work the Getty is pursuing in the Middle East, even in the midst of turmoil there, to protect and preserve the world’s cultural heritage. It will have a corrosive effect on scholarly exchange with the United States and on the stature of American cultural and educational institutions.

The Tenement Museum

The immigration-focused Tenement Museum in New York was among the museums that released statements following the November election, and their president, Morris J. Vogel, posted a message on January 31:

We know, as a museum community committed to sharing the American story, the tragedies to which racial and religious tests have led in the past. But we also know that immigration has always allowed us to become more than we already are as a people — and that this nation’s best values have shaped a society that is the envy of the world. We are justly proud that immigrants continue to want bring their dreams to this country — and that refugees have been able to escape homelands ravaged by the carnage of war, consumed by race hatred, and mired in self-destructive ignorance to rebuild their lives here. At least they were until this past weekend.

American Alliance of Museums

Laura Lott, president and CEO of the American Alliance of Museums, said in a January 30 statement:

The American Alliance of Museums strongly believes in active participation in the global community and in welcoming international perspectives. We seek out and embrace a diversity of people and cultures to enhance our understanding of the world and to connect museums in a global context, as outlined in the Alliance’s strategic plan. This is a core value shared by many American museums and museum professionals who are actively engaged in cultural diplomacy and international research collaborations, as well as programs in our communities to support and illuminate the stories of immigrants and their valuable contributions to American culture.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s January 31 “Museum Statement on Refugees” emphasized the historic context of its museum in regards to the impact on refugees:

In our view, there are many legitimate refugees fleeing the Assad regime’s sustained campaign of crimes against humanity and the genocidal acts perpetrated by ISIS against the Yazidis, Christians, and other religious minorities. American policy should fully address national security concerns while protecting legitimate refugees whatever their national or religious identity.

Studio Libeskind

Studio Libeskind, the architecture firm of Daniel Libeskind that is based in New York and Zurich, shared a statement with the Architects Newspaper:

The Trump travel ban is an affront to our freedom and core values. It affects our employees, colleagues and collaborators. Now is the time for us to join hands and take a stand. On January 21, the Studio brought nearly a 100 [sic] people to march on Washington DC. We are actively boycotting companies that support the current administration’s policies.

Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland

Jill Snyder, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, gave an email statement to The Plain Dealer newspaper in Ohio:

We remain committed to free expression regardless of the religions or countries of origin of the artists we show. The current executive order poses an affront to our values. MOCA will always be a safe haven for ideas from far and wide, and a home for artists, visitors, curators, scholars, and students who bring diverse global perspectives and backgrounds.

Association of Academic Museums and Galleries

Jill Hartz, president of the Association of Academic Museums and Galleries, issued a response on January 31 from the AAMG board:

Among us are faculty, students, and others in our communities who are and feel threatened by our government’s recent actions. We offer our support to them all and we encourage our members to use our safe and brave spaces for dialogue to promote cross-cultural understanding and civic responsibility.

SCI-Arc

The Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) sent a letter on January 30 to their community in support of their members impacted by the travel ban:

What affects one of us in our community affects all of us. We also want you to know that we see it as a profound risk to our core mission and the open future that belongs to all of us at SCI-Arc. Every member of the SCI-Arc community, regardless of where you come from, what you believe, or whom you love, is indispensable to our mission.

Update, 2/3:

American Association for State and Local History

John Dichtl, president and CEO of the American Association for State and Local History, shared a response to the executive order on February 1, with a call for member programming related to immigration, refugees, and connected topics:

AASLH asks its members to share their exhibits and programs on immigration, refugees, religious tolerance, cultural distinctiveness, and related topics that provide the critical historical perspective our nation needs. We are particularly looking for programs or exhibits that are ongoing, can be replicated by other members, or can travel. Share your program on your Twitter using hashtag #AASLHcollects or send us an email ([email protected]) so that we can share via social media.

Society of American Archivists

The Society of American Archivists issued a January 31 statement emphasizing its opposition to the executive order:

Archivists embrace diversity and work actively to ensure that we serve all in society. We oppose actions that discriminate against individuals or threaten individual rights. This ban undermines archivists’ efforts to preserve diverse archives and support the study of our nation’s cultural heritage.

Update, 2/6:

Association of Art Museum Directors

The Association of Art Museum Directors released a statement on January 30 in response to the executive order:

We will always welcome all people regardless of their religion or country of origin. We are deeply concerned that with the current executive order, artistic and scholarly collaborations could now be in jeopardy, just at the moment when cultural exchange and understanding are more important than ever.

Museum of Chinese in America

The Manhattan-based Museum of Chinese in America shared a January 31 letter on their Facebook page from President Nancy Yao Maasbach, noting the echo of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 in Trump’s immigration limits:

It is difficult to witness the chaos and fear that has surfaced in recent days. Its genesis is reminiscent of the climate during the late 19th century in the U.S. that resulted in the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. As a nationally-recognized cultural and research institution, MOCA is committed to ensuring that the tragic wrongdoing of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 is never repeated and the burden of its legacy is carefully repaired and lifted.

Update, 2/8:

The National Coalition Against Censorship shared a statement on February 7 denouncing Trump’s executive order. The statement is signed by over 30 international cultural and human rights institutions and organizations, including PEN America, Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts, Cartoonists Rights Network International, European Council of Artists, Independent Curators International, and the San Francisco Art Institute. Here is a selection from that statement:

The Executive Order threatens the United States safe havens for artists who are at risk in their home countries, in many cases for daring to challenge repressive regimes. It will deprive those artists of crucial platforms for expression and thus deprive all of us of our best hopes for creating mutual understanding in a divided world. It will also damage global cultural economies, including the cultural economy of the United States.

Update, 2/14: 

Director and CEO Thomas P. Campbell of the Met released a February 14 letter entitled “Reflections on the Proposed Executive Order”:

While we are a museum of art, at our core we represent the best of human thought and ideas, powered by some of the leading experts in the world. To this end, scholarly exchange and international collaboration are fundamental to how we work and what we value at The Met. We stand in steadfast opposition to any barriers, including these recent executive actions, that would unnecessarily inhibit those freedoms. We are especially concerned how such a ban might affect our own staff and international fellows.

As Hyperallergic continues to follow this story, please alert us to any cultural organizations and groups responding to the January 27 executive order in the comments.

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