Students and faculty were left with more questions than answers after a public forum to address “American MONUMENT,” and the firing of University Art Museum Director Kimberli Meyer provided no new revelations for attendees.
Around 40 people attended the session Tuesday which was led by Cyrus Parker-Jeannette, dean of the College of the Arts and Maria Coltharp, UAM registrar and curator of the permanent collection. It was held in response to concerns raised by students and faculty after the firing of Meyer on Sept. 11, five days before the opening of Lauren Woods’ “American MONUMENT.”
Parker-Jeannette and Coltharp did not provide new details about the nature of Meyer’s dismissal due to privacy issues.
“It’s been a really weird few weeks,” Coltharp said. “It’s really hard to read the stories [about Kimberli’s firing] and to be muzzled. [The UAM staff] is so emotional and raw right now.”
Parker-Jeannette reiterated statements previously made by the university, emphasizing that there was no connection between Meyer’s dismissal and the contents of the exhibit.
Art history graduate student Ariana Rizo expressed her disappointment with the lack of new information presented at the Q&A session.
“I think part of the frustration of what’s been going on is the lack of transparency,” Rizo said. “People don’t even know how to approach this when nothing has really been said.”
During the discussion, students and faculty suggested that the lack of information provided by the university allowed for speculation that Meyer’s dismissal is tied to the nature of “American MONUMENT.”
Todd Gray, art professor at the university, was concerned that the timing of Meyer’s firing may convey a message to the public that the university supports white supremacy.
“There needs to be a dialogue when a move of that dimension is made, because we are sensitive to how it will be perceived,” Gray said. “It can lead to a lot of misperception.”
Aubry Mintz, director of the School of Art, commended Parker-Jeannette’s proactive measure to hold the Q&A session and told attendees to keep open ears and minds on details that may arise.
“What I’m seeing here in front of us with Maria — the words she’s using and the way she’s sitting — and some comments reflected from people that have worked with the UAM staff, there’s probably another side to the story as well,” Mintz said.