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Curators Speak Out in Support of Departing Queen Museum Leader

Posted January 31, 2018 5:38 p.m. EST

NEW YORK — The decision by Laura Raicovich last week to step down as head of the Queens Museum after clashing with her board over her political activism has prompted directors, curators and staff members from other cultural institutions to publicly champion her example.

“Art institutions must respond to pressing issues facing our communities — this is not simply a right but an obligation, especially for those supported by public funds,” the group said in an open letter dated Jan. 30. “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, regardless of their gender. This is more necessary now than at any other point since the civil rights era in the 1950s and 1960s.”

The letter, initiated by Carin Kuoni, the director and chief curator of the Vera List Center for Art and Politics at the New School, was signed by important art-world figures including Mary Ceruti, the executive director and chief curator of the Sculpture Center; Helen Molesworth, the chief curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Jay Sanders, the executive director and chief curator of Artists Space; and Jamillah James, a curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

During her three years as president and executive director at the Queens Museum, Raicovich was an outspoken advocate for immigration rights and positioned the museum as a leader on social issues. On Friday, she announced that she was stepping down, saying that her “vision and that of the board weren’t in enough alignment.”

Raicovich “has galvanized the museum field: she has demonstrated how cultural institutions can responsibly and creatively embrace artistic as well as social and political matters crucial to their local constituencies while contributing to the field at large,” the letter said. “We have been inspired by her work with art, artists, and communities relating to important cultural issues such as immigration, cultural diversity, education, and equity. The example she set will continue to inform our own work.”