Artists Rally at Hammer Museum After Arrests at UCLA

LOS ANGELES — An ad-hoc group of artists, art workers, and University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) students and faculty gathered outside the Hammer Museum on Friday evening, June 15, to call for a boycott of the school in solidarity with the latest efforts toward a Gaza Solidarity Encampment at UCLA. More than 20 students and faculty attempting to establish a new campus encampment were detained earlier in the week, and one student was reportedly hospitalized after being wounded by a rubber bullet.

Playing Palestinian music, carrying flags and signs, and wearing keffiyehs, around 15 protesters under the name No Art Under Apartheid met near the Wilshire and Westwood Boulevards entrance of the Hammer Museum around 5pm. The institution is funded, operated, and managed by UCLA.

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In an open letter signed by over 65 people, including artists and a number of UC faculty, they demand that the Hammer Museum release an official call for a ceasefire in Gaza, divest from companies tied to Israeli military interests, and remove former UCLA Chancellor Gene Block from the board. 

“We refuse to be placated by images and objects while artists in Gaza, like Heba Zagout, are murdered everyday,” the letter reads.”We refuse to hide behind the safety of four white walls while the Rafah Museum remains in ruins.”

Hyperallergic has contacted the UCLA and Hammer Museum for comment.

A demonstrator holds up a sign calling for Gene Block’s removal from the Hammer board.

It’s the second protest at the Hammer Museum since April, when violence erupted on the UCLA campus as pro-Israel counter-protesters attacked student activists. 

“We’re here to pressure the museum to be in alignment with what they claim to believe, which is making the world a better place through art,” Taiyea Turner, an artist based in downtown LA, told Hyperallergic at the protest. “With their position as a public museum, I think they have a real power.” 

Scott Volz, an art historian and community organizer, said another reason the group was targeting the Hammer is that the museum “has adopted an activist posture through its mission statement, which espouses building a more just world through art and culture.”

“This sort of language is only rhetoric when it lacks material action to back it up,” said Volz. “So we’re demanding the museum cut ties with Gene Block.”

At 6:30pm, the group entered the museum to hand-deliver their letter to Hammer staff. Security workers blocked every entrance, locked doors, and informed guests that the museum was closed, causing confusion for attendees of the UCLA Celebration of Iranian Cinema scheduled for that night. The Hammer typically closes at 8pm on Fridays.

“I’m with you guys!” said one visitor to the protesters as she left the museum in frustration.

Protesters hold up a banner that reads “No Art Under Apartheid.”

By 6:54pm, the group handed their letter to a Hammer security personnel at the parking garage entrance who promised to deliver it to his manager. They then marched to the Lindbrook Avenue entrance and continued chanting while visitors and staff attempted to enter the museum, which remained locked.

“Keep it going!” one staffer arriving for their shift yelled to the demonstrators. The group created a picket line outside the entrance for another hour until disbanding at 8pm.

“I hope this will be an educational opportunity for people to understand how far of a reach UCLA has in our community in LA,” said Turner. “It’s not just a student issue, it’s not just a property issue, not just a staff issue. It’s a public issue, because it’s a public campus that has these proxy institutions all over the city, and the Hammer is one of the biggest ones.”

Source: Hyperallergic.com

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