In the wake of worldwide protests and demonstrations sparked by the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis, the city’s two most prominent art museums have pledged to cut ties with the Minneapolis Police Department.
The Walker Art Center made the first move, announcing on Wednesday afternoon that it would stop hiring police at its events “until the MPD implements meaningful change by demilitarizing training programs, holding officers accountable for the use of excessive force, and treating communities of color with dignity and respect. Enough is enough. George Floyd should still be alive. Black lives matter.”
The Minneapolis Institute of Art decided to follow suit, with a museum representative confirming in an email to Artnet News that it “will no longer contract with off-duty police officers from the MPD.” The museum previously held an exhibition of artwork inspired by the fatal police shooting of another unarmed black man, Philando Castile, during a routine traffic stop in St. Paul in 2016.
Many typical museumgoers may not be aware that museums often contract the services of off-duty police officers for security for special events. It remains to be seen whether museums in other cities that have been the site of protests will make a similar decision to cut ties.
A representative for the Minnesota Museum of American Art in St. Paul told Artnet News that the institution never had a formal relationship with the St. Paul Police Department. “They were hired one time three years ago for a street festival, but other than that, there hasn’t been a formal relationship,” the spokesperson said. In a message posted in the wake of the protests, the museum stated: “Museums and must actively participate in the dismantling of deeply rooted, systemic racism and racial violence in America.”
The Science Museum of Minnesota and the Bell Museum, which focuses on natural history, did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Artnet News about the status of their relationships with the police department.
The news of the two Minneapolis museums’ decision to end their relationships with the local police came on the same day that Minnesota’s Attorney General charged three more officers in Floyd’s death and upgraded the charge against the first officer, Derek Chauvin, to second-degree murder.