“Promise, Witness, Remembrance” at the Speed Art Museum has radically raised the stakes for arts programming in the US and worldwide.

Curated by Allison Glenn, the exhibition reflects on the life of Breonna Taylor, her killing in 2020, and the subsequent protests ignited around the world. This will be the first public showing of Amy Sherald’s portrait of Breonna Taylor (pictured above) alongside work by artists including Theaster Gates, Hank Willis Thomas, Alisha Wormsley, and Nick Cave.



When WHY embarked on the renovation and expansion of The Speed (completed in 2016), our goal was to dramatically expand the museum’s capacity to attract new and diverse audiences. We’re proud to play our part in facilitating exhibitions such as “Promise, Witness, Remembrance,” and to be working at the forefront of institutional change.

WHY takes an active stance in the global conversation for museums to become more inclusive, more imaginative, more curious about cultural diversity – and we’re seeing those changes play out in our work with institutions including The Academy Museum, The American Museum of Natural History, and The Met, among others. Practices and attitudes are evolving, fast.

As Brian Butterfield, Director of the WHY Museums Workshop, has expressed: architecture is not “the answer.” Instead of dreaming up catch-all solutions to social problems, our role is to design with intention and care, shaping environments where people feel empowered, inspired, and open to positive change. “Promise, Witness, Remembrance” is a measure of that impact.



Selected press for “Promise, Witness Remembrance”

New York Times

“Assembled in a mere four months, pivoting off an important national event, the Speed Museum offers a new, relevant model for aging institutions. […] Combining works from the Speed’s permanent collection with loans in several cases directly from artists and galleries, the show was assembled and installed (beautifully) in a mere four months. And it was conceived as a direct response to a contemporary news event: the killing, by Louisville police, of Breonna Taylor, a Black 26-year-old medical worker, in March 2020. A posthumous painting of Taylor by the artist Amy Sherald is the exhibition’s centerpiece, accompanied by photographs of local street protests sparked by her death and by the lenient treatment of the white officers involved […]”

-Holland Cotter

Read the article here

W Magazine

“Promise, Witness, Remembrance is a return to what [Breonna Taylor’s mother] Tamika Palmer—and Kimberlé Crenshaw, who started the Say Her Name campaign in 2014—intended. It’s a show of recognition that Taylor wasn’t a statistic, but a person: a daughter, a sister, a partner, and an essential worker. Curator Allison Glenn had never met Taylor, nor visited Louisville, so she assembled a national advisory panel and worked with a local steering committee organized by the Speed’s Toya Northington. The end result, Palmer has said, is ‘filled with spirit’ […]”

-Stephanie Eckardt

Read the article here


“Breonna Taylor’s family worked alongside a number of other community members, local artists and mental health professionals. Toya Northington, Community Engagement Strategist at the Speed Art Museum, wanted people who are close to the issues of police brutality and racism to have a voice in the show — but that wasn’t a simple ask. ‘When I ask people to come to the table in a time where we are greatly divided as a community, I’m asking them to come on board and to support this institution that has not been known for their support for the Black community and marginalized communities,’ Northington explains. […]”

-Stephanie Wolf

Listen to the feature here

Theaster Gates, Alls my life I has to fight (2019), Metal, bronze, and Cerulean granite and carpet. Courtesy of Gray, Chicago/New York and Tia Collection, Santa F
Nick Cave, Unarmed (2018), Sculpture, cast bronze, metal and vintage beaded flowers. Courtesy of the artist and Wendi Norris Gallery, San Francisco
Lorna Simpson, Same (1991), 16 color Polaroids in four frames with 11 plastic plaques. Gift of the New Art Collectors 1991.22.2 a e © Lorna Simpson. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth
Sam Gilliam, Carousel Form II (1969), Acrylic on canvas 120 x 900 in. Gift of the artist 2013.6
Find out more about the exhibition:
April 13th, 2021
Museums,  Programming
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