The Des Moines Art Center presents a series of four lectures by leading museum directors about the role of museums in addressing the complexity of today’s cultural, political, and social concerns.

Setting the stage for this series is a primer lecture by Director of Curatorial Affairs and Senior Curator Alison Ferris on the state of the field. In this presentation, Ferris will discuss Scaffold, a sculpture by Sam Durant at the Walker Art Center (2017); Dana Schutz’s painting Open Casket in the 2017 Whitney Biennial; the Hollywood film Black Panther; and Decolonize This Place—an arts-activist collective devoted to the decolonial overhaul of New York City museums.

Ferris’ lecture poses complicated questions that both artists and the museum field are grappling with: What are art museums’ responsibilities in this fraught moment in history? Who gets to decide which histories to address in art? Who should tell stories and how should they be told? Are there limits and responsibilities that go along with artistic freedom and curatorial judgement?