The 2020-21 Museum Leaders in Training program focused on Kehinde Wiley’s Rumors of War, which was acquired by VMFA in 2019. The monumental, 27-foot tall statue is placed at the front end of the museum, facing Arthur Ashe Boulevard. Working with VMFA staff, M.LiT students explored the contextualization of Wiley’s Rumors of War in Richmond, Virginia, and considered the themes of representation, race, gender, and power. Students interviewed VMFA staff and the staff of partner institutions, local community members, and organizers to capture and include a variety of perspectives on the subject. The following interviewed participants are featured: Free Bangura, Princess Blanding, Valerie Cassel Oliver, Alex Criqui, Hamilton Glass, Dustin Klein, Sandra Sellars, Luis Vasquez La Roch and Sandy Williams IV.
The following central questions were at the core of the student-made video:
- What is the meaning of Rumors of War? What is Kehinde Wilely trying to say?
- How does Rumors of War relate to the context of Richmond’s history, VMFA’s history/grounds, and other (and former) monuments in Richmond?
- How does the meaning or significance of Rumors of War change now that Monument Ave has evolved since the Rumors of War installation?
- What does Rumors of War mean to and for young people? How does it shape future art audiences, artists, and change agents?
- Does “Art” have the power to instigate real social change?
In addition to the video project, students had experiences that built upon their exploration of the program’s topic and theme. These included a personal zine project, a risograph workshop at Studio Two Three, a walking tour of Monument Avenue with The Valentine, and guest workshops with Mark Cheatham, Rebecca Keel, and Cree Renee.
This program is generously sponsored by Wells Fargo.