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ASU's MacArthur 'Genius' Withdraws MoMA Work, Citing Support of Detention Centers

Poet Natalie Diaz, recipient of a 2018 MacArthur Foundation FellowshipEXPAND
Poet Natalie Diaz, recipient of a 2018 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship
Courtesy of ASU

Poet Natalie Diaz has withdrawn from a poetry and art project at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, citing in a tweet the museum’s “support of mass incarceration & detention centers.” Diaz teaches in the MFA writing program at Arizona State University, and recently received the MacArthur "genius grant" in recognition of her work.

Diaz made the announcement on Friday, March 29, on social media. Her tweet began as follows: “I just withdrew from a poetry/art project @MuseumModernArt b/c of their support of mass incarceration and detention centers.” The tweet doesn't share details about the specific museum policies and practices that prompted the statement.

However, it does address the issue in a wider context, as follows: “Most places, even our own institutions, are entangled.” Diaz’s tweet does not cite specific examples of the institutions she is addressing here.

The tweet also references Diaz’s own personal connections to the issue: “My sister was just released. My brother spent a large part of his life there.” Diaz’s first published poetry collection, titled When My Brother Was an Aztec, addresses her brother’s experience with heroin addiction.

Here's that tweet, in its entirety:

Diaz was born and raised in the Fort Mohave Indian Village in Needles, California, according to her ASU bio. She is Mojave, and an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian Tribe.

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Her works has garnered numerous national awards. Arizona Humanities will present its Humanities Public Scholar Award to Diaz during its awards ceremony at Mesa Arts Center on Friday, April 19.

Diaz is also one of several 2018-19 ambassadors for the University of Arizona’s Art for Justice Project, which is supported by the Art for Justice Fund. The project will commission new work from writers who are addressing the issue of mass incarceration. Diaz will do a reading of her work for the project at UA’s Poetry Center on Thursday, April 4.

Diaz, who has participated in public discussions about the intersection of art and activism, closed her tweet with a related sentiment: “We have choices in art.”

New Times reached out to Diaz and MOMA for comment, but had not heard back as of this writing. We will update this post as additional details become available. 

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