“Is Black Artwork Protected on the MMoCA?” Lilada Gee’s Exhibit Is Defaced, and Museum Officers Do not Communicate

For beloved Madison artist Lilada Gee being a featured artist on the Wisconsin Triennial titled “Ain’t IA Lady?” on the Madison Museum of Modern Artwork (MMoCA) in downtown Madison was a dream come true, and her time to shine at a significant artwork establishment within the metropolis the place she grew up. The exhibit, which opened in April and can run via October, explores the intersection of race and gender in addition to the underrepresentation of black feminine artists in Wisconsin.

Nonetheless, three months later, the dream continues to be a nightmare.

Again in March, in a story that Madison365 told first, Gee was verbally abused and belittled by a bodily aggressive Overture Heart for the Arts worker as she tried to re-enter the constructing the place she was engaged on her artwork. “It was so stunning it took my breath away,” Gee advised Madison365 on the time. “The lady was extraordinarily aggressive. I’ve by no means seen remedy like this in my years working right here.

The worker was then fired.

Gee was too distraught and traumatized to complete her work. She learn “An Open Letter to All of the ‘Beths’ Who Interrupt Black Ladies” when the Ain’t IA Lady exhibit opened in mid-Might.

For over a month after opening, Gee’s unfinished exhibit was on view together with the entire different artists’ works on the MMoCA. Till the final one On Friday, when Gee obtained a name from Christina Brungardt, the director of MMOCA.

“She mentioned she simply wished to let me know there had been an incident on the museum. She mentioned there was a misunderstanding and a mom and her youngsters thought they may work together with (the ‘)exhibition they usually painted a few of the canvases they usually need to know if they’ll take the canvases they painted residence. Gee tells Madison365.

Apparently they’d already taken a few of the canvases, which had been finally recovered. The timeline for this allegation is unclear, as MMoCA officers declined to debate specifics.

Brungardt despatched Gee photographs and safety video of the destruction.

“I completely could not consider it. And it was worse than I assumed. After which, truly, I bought the movies of the spouse and the youngsters once they stole the canvases,” Gee says.

All of the canvases had been finally recovered. However the injury and vandalism remained.

“On a canvas, it appears clear that they painted a penis on it and painted everywhere in the image. There was paint on the ground. They open a field of glitter and throw it everywhere in the desk. They painted or drew on the faces of a few of the ladies I had there. They screwed it up,” Gee says bluntly. “And so I watch the video they usually had virtually half-hour or extra alone with my publicity throughout which they’d their absolute method with it.

“And whereas I used to be watching the video, I see a janitor stroll proper previous them…and I am speaking inches away. He doesn’t say something. It does nothing. And when he walked previous them, they opened the cans of paint. They take the canvas off the desk,” Gee continues. “And it is 15 or 20 minutes after the janitor comes by and sees them doing this at my exhibit that somebody walks into the room. He subsequently took no speedy motion. Additionally they had been purported to have somebody watching the rooms throughout opening hours to keep away from precisely what occurred and I’ll let you know they’d half an hour to 40 minutes alone with my exhibit.

Madison Museum of Modern Artwork
(Picture by David Dahmer)

Gee says she paused for a second earlier than answering Brungardt’s name late Friday afternoon.

“Wait a minute. You are calling to inform me somebody vandalized my exhibit. And also you need to know if they’ll take residence the canvases they vandalized? I mentioned, ‘why are you calling me? you and ask me that?’ She mentioned, ‘Properly, I promised them I might ask.’ And I mentioned, ‘That is so disrespectful. I can not consider you referred to as me to ask me that query. I am leaving that decision. She’s like, ‘Can I name you again?’ I mentioned, ‘No, do not name me again.’

Madison365 had a number of questions on this incident and reached out to Brungardt, who responded late Tuesday afternoon.

“There are some issues that I can not actually talk about simply due to the character of issues,” Brungardt advised Madison365. “I can say that we’re actually saddened that this has occurred and we deeply apologize to Lilada for what occurred. Actually, it’s completely towards the whole lot we hoped for with this publicity and our engagement with the artists in our artwork safety. However out of respect for the artist and the suggestions we count on from her, in addition to the survey, we actually cannot talk about this in additional element at the moment.

“My coronary heart goes out to her. We love working with Lilada and I can not think about the quantity of trauma it causes,” she provides.

Later that day, MMoCA emailed an announcement to Madison365:

“The Madison Museum of Modern Artwork employees and board of trustees are saddened
and deeply involved in regards to the incident on Friday, June 24, 2022, when an grownup customer
and two youngsters broken an set up by artist Lilada Gee. The museum
wish to sincerely apologize to Lilada Gee for what occurred.

The incident is especially troubling provided that the 2022 Wisconsin Triennial,
Ain’t IA Lady?, an exhibit during which Gee joined 22 different black girls and ladies
artists with Wisconsin ties, has been so nicely obtained by guests to Madison and
across the area.

The museum has been in communication with Gee and the visitor curator of Ain’t IA
Girls? on the incident, however can’t make any additional public remark till the
the incident is underneath investigation.

Gee tells Madison365 that she stays unhappy in her quest to seek out out who vandalized her exhibit and why they had been in a position to vandalize it so simply.

“And the director took it upon herself to resolve that she was not going to press costs after which despatched me a message asking me: Do I need to press costs? And I ponder why it is as much as me since I am not the director,” says Gee.

“This can be a main museum in a capital that somebody walked into, vandalized and demolished my exhibit, stole components of it, then I’m they ask me if I need to file a grievance,” says Gee. “In order that they’re mainly abdicating all accountability. So is artwork protected on the MMoCA? I ought to even point out that: is black artwork protected on the MMoCA?

Gee says there have been about two dozen artists who had been a part of the “Ain’t I a Lady” exhibit. No different incidents of vandalism had been reported.

“The unique intent of this piece was to inform the tales of silenced and invisible black ladies. The unique intent of this was minimize brief by the primary incident with the Overture Heart worker,” Gee explains. “Now , i inform the story of what too many black girls face about being interrupted – the micro and macroaggressions and all these issues that occur to us that lend themselves to all of the stress associated sicknesses that black girls are on the prime of the record.. So now that is the story I am attempting to inform with this piece.. After which it will get destroyed and handled, for my part, with out honor by the director calling me and saying that and never submitting a grievance.

“What if it was a loaned piece from a well known nationwide artist? What would they do then? I do not put myself on the identical stage as that, however I like my artwork as a lot as they do,” she provides.

Is not that an AI girl?, which spotlights a cross-generational group of black girls artists working in several disciplines together with murals, printmaking, sculpture, portray, efficiency, textiles and extra, runs via October 9 on the MMoCA. Gee says that to his information, his room remains to be there… vandalized.

” It is ridiculous. I used to be floored,” she mentioned. “To see how lengthy these individuals had been ready to stick with my exhibit unattended and see what they had been allowed to do there and the truth that certainly one of their workers noticed them doing this and did nothing. It is getting worse.”

Along with being a beloved Madison artist, Gee is the founder and president of Defending Black Girlhood and Black Girls Heal, a Madison-based nonprofit that educates, empowers, engages and equips girls and ladies. girls in therapeutic and stopping sexual abuse in our communities.

“Is not that IA Lady?” was meant to be a really particular time for her to work with different black feminine artists in a protected house the place she may showcase her abilities to Madison’s massive creative neighborhood. As a substitute, she was traumatized.


“I really need individuals to know the onslaught that black girls are underneath and the stress that we’re always inundated with and the disrespect, ridicule and harassment that we face. It is the giddyness of what it means to be a black girl attempting to do one thing constructive, even simply paint,” Gee says. “I do not stroll. I do not vandalize something. I do not assault anybody. I am simply attempting to reside my greatest life. And that is what we always should take care of. So now I am looking for a stability between dealing with this case and conserving myself in a spot the place I am not going to hurt my very own well being as a result of I am so burdened.

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