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The Benefactor

I do not think of myself as a benefactor. I am a public historian, social and arts activist, and American Indian advocate and as such have found myself being conscious of the world around me and taking action in many ways. I have been called a social artist, my actions in the public sphere being guided by the work itself. In that way—just as when I established the American Indian Ritual Object Repatriation Foundation in 1992 and as I continue to lecture and write on ethics and morality in the art market and beyond—I found the image of a place, a center, whose primary mission was to further equality, justice, and equity and provide opportunity for those moral principles and values of Feminism to be a mighty and highly desirable prospect.

Coming of age in the 1960s, my life was centered in protests of the Civil Rights Movement. That I eluded arrest or worse was a relief to my parents, but it was during those years the social activism in my marrow was ignited and shaped my actions and activities for more than five decades. Ultimately, financial resources have enabled me to create an enduring activist declaration. I am, of course, referring to the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art.

The Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art is a home where the feminist principles of equality and justice reside. The Center is a forum for dialogue and discourse about feminism and feminist art. The Women’s Liberation Movement in America in the 1970s was but a beginning. We now live in a world hard-wired electronically, with each corner only nano-seconds apart from the others. But oppression, inequity, and prejudice still engulf most women in the world although, in total, women make up half the earth’s population. We will not have reached a post-feminist era until all women—women of color, disenfranchised women living in poverty and subjected to injustices, women abused or discarded—are saved from bigotry, are rescued from the horrors of rape and the sex-slave market, and at last have equal opportunities.

The Brooklyn Museum’s determined adherence to its mission to provide the fundamentals of human cultural edification is the reason why, in 2002, I shared my vision of a Center for Feminist Art with the Museum. The outstanding commitment of Director Arnold Lehman and the Board of Trustees, and the enthusiasm and hard work of the Museum’s staff, have made this groundbreaking project possible.

Watching the Center take physical form has been a thrill of a lifetime. Knowing that it highlights women’s contributions in all fields throughout history, brings feminist art to a major cultural institution, and creates a fertile space for feminists, artists, thinkers, and writers to congregate and share ideas and ideals turns a vision into reality.

Elizabeth A. Sackler