As I sit trying to introduce our annual Fall Arts issue, I’m also struggling to wrap my head around what has been going on in the cultural community. The sudden resignation of Hope McMath from the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens after twenty-two years, has left so many in the community confused, saddened, flabbergasted, very angry and demanding answers.
Hope McMath is a strong, vocal activist who has helped bring light to many deep-rooted issues in Jacksonville – from LGBT rights and lack of an HRO, to issues of systemic racism. Despite pushback, Hope has remained brave and smart beyond belief; continuing to step up and speak out. Doing so while working within the walls of a very conservative cultural institution.
She tore down the view-blocking landscaping facing Riverside Avenue, created an outside sculpture pavilion, and expanded the Cummer Café outside, under the beautiful oak trees; developing a space that reaches out, creating a welcoming vibe.
She has opened up and expanded the Cummer, inside and out, with fresh and innovative ideas, and invited the community to be part of something bigger … change and conversations.
Sadly some of this change and her recent focus on multicultural exhibitions, such as LIFT, and open dicussions that embraced diversity put some folks in a tizzy. So while many of us completely embraced this, and wanted to believe Jacksonville was moving forward … guess again: these issues of bigotry still remain. Many believe that it was the LIFT exhibition that caused this abrupt departure, but the storm has been brewing for a while.
I know that I might get some pushback for some of what I am saying here, but I don’t think this situation was as nefarious as many believe, either. People with money have every right to spend it where and how they choose. Whomever these dissenting donors are also have a history of donating generously. Knowing who those individuals are won’t change things. What will change things will be wealthy, forward-thinking individuals choosing to get involved.
Hope posted a really appropriate comment that her husband, Barry Wilson, made about the situation: “A race horse only knows how to race and will never be happy or good at being hitched to a cart taking children on a ride at their birthday party.”
Hope has made an indelible mark on the Cummer and is leaving behind a stellar legacy that will remain for many years to come. It’s said: Leave while you are ahead and your voice is heard. We hear you, Hope. The world is now your oyster.
We look forward the new iteration of Hope McMath!
Cinda Sherman, Publisher
Enjoy putting a little culture in your life!