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When art can become divisive

Written by on February 14, 2020

For more than 100 years, artwork on Rochester’s Dentzel Carousel at the Ontario Beach Park served as a stark reminder that racism can be perpetuated through art. When a carousel panel bearing the depiction of what the Rochester Museum & Science Center termed “pickaninny artwork” was removed a few years ago, it became part of a traveling exhibit that’s currently on display at the Central Church of Christ. This exhibit moves to the FIGHT Village on February 18, where it will remain until March 18.

The dialogue that local leaders hope the carousel panel prompts is not of continuing division but of discussion about the effects of institutional and structural racism as well as personal racism. The Museum is displaying the removed panel to shine a light on how art can become divisive by demeaning the humanity of black children.

The Rochester Museum & Science Center has partnered with the City of Rochester to present this exhibit as a learning opportunity and a teachable moment to help promote social justice and to help remove the stigma that still surrounds too many black children today. The Rochester Museum’s exhibit received the 2019 Engaging Communities award from the Museum Association of New York (MANY).

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