Education is at the heart of everything we do at the Barnes.
The Barnes strives to mirror the diversity of the Philadelphia regional population in its exhibitions, education offerings, public programs, and audiences. We actively seek to build a diverse Board, staff, and stakeholder community, recognizing that an ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion is integral to the Barnes's excellence and success.
Our founder, Dr. Albert C. Barnes, understood that art had the power to improve minds and transform lives. In accordance with his vision and values, the Barnes believes that:
- All people are capable of learning to appreciate and enjoy art, and doing so can be a life-transforming experience.
- Engaging with art is not an esoteric activity, but one that has practical application to personal and intellectual development.
- Art has a meaningful role to play in the service of improving society.
- Diversity and inclusion are necessary parts of all our activities.
- Our material assets must be preserved according to the highest possible standards so they may be enjoyed by the generations to come.
Our Commitments to Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion
The Barnes’s commitment to accessible education and to diversity, inclusion, and social justice is central to our mission: to promote the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts and horticulture. In recent years, we have worked to fulfill the aspirations of Dr. Barnes by bringing the transformative power of art into our local communities and creating programs to welcome diverse audiences to visit our galleries.
To realize this commitment to accessible education and to diversity, inclusion, and social justice, we have expanded relationships with our vibrant network of local partners—including the School District of Philadelphia, the Free Library of Philadelphia, People’s Emergency Center, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, and Puentes de Salud—and collaborated on creative initiatives both on-site and in the neighborhoods we serve.
Our special exhibitions reflect our mission in a variety of ways. Some engage with the art and artists represented in our galleries, while others, to place those works in context, feature artists overlooked during Dr. Barnes’s time. Many exhibitions honor Dr. Barnes’s commitment to racial equality and social justice, celebrating artists who are Black, indigenous, people of color, women, and those who did not have access to formal art education.
Exhibitions include Marie Laurencin: Sapphic Paris (2023–24), an examination of how the artist's work subtly but radically challenges existing narratives of modern European art; William Edmondson: A Monumental Vision (2023), an exploration of the enduring relevance of this self-taught American sculptor; Sue Williamson & Lebohang Kganye: Tell Me What You Remember (2023), a cross-generational dialogue featuring two of South Africa’s most acclaimed contemporary artists; Modigliani Up Close (2023), in-depth exploration of how the iconic artist created his works over the course of his career; Isaac Julien: Once Again . . . (Statues Never Die) (2022), an immersive film installation exploring the relationship between Dr. Barnes and famed philosopher and cultural critic Alain Locke; Water, Wind, Breath: Southwest Native Art in Community (2022), exploring Pueblo and Navajo pottery, textiles, and jewelry as living traditions; Suzanne Valadon: Model, Painter, Rebel (2021), spotlighting the controversial artist who broke new ground with her unapologetic portraits and nudes; Elijah Pierce’s America, celebrating the remarkable work of the self-taught woodcarver (2020); Berthe Morisot: Woman Impressionist (2018), a landmark exhibition dedicated to the only woman who exhibited in every one of the impressionist exhibitions; and Mohamed Bourouissa: Urban Riders (2017), in which the artist explored a North Philadelphia community’s efforts at neighborhood revitalization and youth empowerment.
You can find out more about accessibility and inclusion at the Barnes, including accommodations for visitors, on our Accessibility page. We also provide detailed information for visiting with disabilities in our Plan Your Visit section.
The Barnes is situated in Lenapehoking, the ancestral homeland of the Lenape people. We acknowledge and honor their enduring relationship to this land and commit to serving as responsible stewards of it, guided by their knowledge and culture. All Lenape people—those still in the region, and those driven from it by European and American colonizers—are welcomed back to this piece of their homeland, and we invite all people to join us with the Lenape and other Indigenous peoples to build a more inclusive and equitable learning space for present and future generations.
The process of land acknowledgment is part of the Barnes’s commitment to social justice and education; diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility; relationships with underserved, under-resourced communities; and local artists and creative cultural communities. In 2022, the publication of our Native American art collection catalogue and presentation of a related exhibition served as a catalyst for forging new, meaningful relationships with the Lenape and other local Indigenous peoples to learn from art and the land together. As we continue to acknowledge and honor them into the future, the Barnes commits to:
- Caring for, studying, and sharing with the public the Native American art collection at the Barnes.
- Serving as a responsible steward of the land on which the Barnes is situated and recognizing its deep cultural and spiritual significance.
- Regularly lifting Native voices, culture, traditions, and history—and directly engaging with Native artists and organizations—in our programming.
- Regularly providing information about Barnes programming to Lenape and other local Indigenous groups, offering free admission to community members who express interest in visiting, and offering complimentary guided tours quarterly.
- Teaching our staff about the importance of land acknowledgment through regular workshops, trainings, and orientations.
- Incorporating Indigenous perspectives and traditional knowledge in our work.
- Enshrining these commitments in all future strategic plans.