A photo of the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore.

The Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Conversations surrounding the role that art institutions have played in perpetuating systemic racism have inspired the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) to issue a formal statement on the matter. The statement, titled “Acknowledging MICA’s Racist Past As We Forge Together a Better Future for All,” was released Thursday by the college’s president, Samuel Hoi.

“MICA as an institution—represented by its president, vice presidents, and board of trustees—apologizes for its historical denial of access to talented students for no other reason than the color of their skin, and for the hardships to those who were admitted but not supported for their success,” a portion of the statement reads.

Hoi told American visual arts magazine ARTnews that the release of the statement on Feb. 21 was meant to coincide with the anniversary of a day in 1896, when a black student who desperately wanted to attend MICA was denied admission. But the institution’s discriminatory policies go back even further than that.

Five years prior, in 1891, MICA accepted its first black student, which prompted 100 white students to leave in protest. After the black student graduated, the college swiftly implemented a policy that only accepted white students. The policy remained intact for more than half a century. It was changed in 1954 during the rise of the Civil Rights Movement.

Moving forward, Hoi admits that words alone are not enough to make up for the MICA’s past transgressions. If the college is truly remorseful, it will have to take action to ensure that everyone is given access to arts education.

“An institutional acknowledgment in the form of an apology, no matter how sincere, is empty unless it is rooted in a systemic commitment for change and unless it represents meaningful action that is in progress,” Hoi told ARTnews.