Rally, march, holler, howl. We live in an age of protest. Demonstrations of all kinds mark our time. It’s as if we’re all in a constant state of agitation. Of course, there’s a lot to complain about.

Why now?

But here’s the thing. Many of the antagonisms that drive our outrages have always been with us. Racism, sexism are old stories. Minorities and women know them by heart. What’s the difference now? Why are we suddenly rising up in such great numbers? Why, for example, did the women’s march draw more than three million into the streets around the world?

Obvious answer

The advent of trump may well be the driving force, not only for his racist and sexist talk, but also for his penchant for lying, his maligning of our institutions, including the free press, and his myriad denials including the dissing of climate change. How else to explain the proliferation of poster art lately? Like:

  • “Fighting Truth Decay. No More Lies or Democracy Dies.”
  • “Elect a Clown. Expect a Circus.”
  • “Let Us Now Pause for a Moment of Science. ”
  • A favorite of mine is a sign saying, “I’m With Her” pointing to the globe – Mother Earth.

Good intentions

All of which brings me to some concerning museum news. Laura Raicovich, director of the Queens Museum in New York, quit because the Board of Trustees viewed her as too much of a political activist.

As she told the press: “There are so many big things that art and culture have to contend with that are so wrong in the world. That’s where my focus and energy needs to be, and at the end of the day, I just felt that my vision and that of the board weren’t in enough alignment to get that done.”

Bad decision

One of the things the board frowned on was her shutting down the museum on the day that Trump was inaugurated.

Instead, she welcomed visitors to make protest posters. As you may know, I don’t shy from controversy, but I’m with the Trustees on this one. Closing a public exhibit hall because the director doesn’t like the president is a case of over-activism. Sad to say, my take on her action is out of sync with many in the art world.

Call for activism

Thirty-eight artists, curators and academics signed an open letter touting Raicovich for her activism and asked that more art museums follow her example and push for “cultural and social as well as political public discourse.” The letter went on to say, “We call on the boards of our cultural institutions to embrace the civic role of our institutions by supporting and empowering courageous and caring leaders such as Laura Raicovich…”

Limiting the discourse

Look, I'm fine with discourse and advancing it, but not everybody dislikes Trump. A public museum must respect diversity. This includes Trump supporters. Mounting politically engaged programs at a museum is a good thing, but closing it down closes down the very discourse you’re trying to advance.