Edward Colston Statue

By Clare Burnett PRSS

Over the last couple of weeks we have all, individuals and institutions, witnessed events that have made us think deeply about how a seam of racism runs through our society and question our part in it. At the Royal Society of Sculptors we are committed to actively addressing what it means to be an anti-racist institution and acknowledge that, though this has been a specific aim over the last few years, we have not gone far or deep enough in pursuing it.   

Some steps are already in place  – a Trustee with responsibility for Diversity and Equality who reports at each Board meeting, policies for recruitment and plans for exhibitions, residencies, selection panels and reaching out to relevant organisations and artists. An away-day for Trustees has already been scheduled for the autumn at which we will be addressing this specific issue and at which we will hear a range of voices to help us think critically and carefully about what else we should be doing.

This week has made us more determined than ever to move forward. The debate about statues is particularly relevant given that we were founded by a group of sculptors who made memorial work at the start of the 20th century. Addressing this point in particular, our research curator has started a project collecting all the press and debate about the Edward Colston sculpture in the hope that this will become a useful resource. 

We are looking for sources of funding for a series of archive projects which we hope will encourage different readings of our past and create a space for new conversations. We hope that by developing these and other initiatives and by not being scared to ask difficult questions we will be better able to fulfil our charitable role, promoting sculpture and supporting sculptors in an actively anti-racist way. 

Clare Burnett, President