Baltimore Museum of Art acquires LaToya Ruby Frazier installation honouring community healthcare workers

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The Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) has acquired LaToya Roby Frazier’s arresting installation More Than Conquerors: A Monument for Community Health Workers of Baltimore, Maryland 2021-2022 (2022). The piece consists of 66 inkjet prints featuring portraits and didactics mounted on 18 socially distanced, steel intravenous drip poles, a solemn reflection of and monument to the role of community healthcare workers (CHWs)—many of them women of colour—at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The work has been gifted to the BMA by the Glenstone Museum in Potomac, Maryland. More Than Conquerors presents an alternative methodology to commemoration, centering marginalised voices and communities disproportionately affected by America’s for-profit healthcare system. Originally developed for the 58th Carnegie International exhibition in Pittsburgh, More Than Conquerors won the coveted Carnegie Prize before arriving at Gladstone Gallery in New York this spring. The installation will begin its tenure at the BMA in 2025, where it will kick off a year-long environmental awareness initiative.

More Than Conquerors reflects the distinct quality of LaToya Ruby Frazier’s artistry and her innate ability to encapsulate stories of profound personal and communal meaning,” Asma Naeem, the BMA’s director, said in a statement. “The installation offers a poignant tribute to some of the most important but under-acknowledged heroes of our community.”

Frazier’s work on More Than Conquerors grew from her relationship with Lisa Cooper, the Bloomberg Distinguished Professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health and director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Equity. Frazier was inspired to develop a project addressing healthcare inequity after experiencing discrimination while attempting to get vaccinated for Covid-19. She was moved to focus on the lives and histories of the chronically undersung CHWs, who help underserved populations navigate with the infamously byzantine healthcare systems of the United States.

“People seemed to understand the role of doctors and nurses in the pandemic, but not the CHWs. They weren’t heard, or seen as the heroes they are,” Cooper told Johns Hopkins’s Hub publication.

With both Cooper’s and Johns Hopkins’s support, Frazier was able to connect with Tiffany Scott, co-founder and chair of the Maryland Community Health Worker Association, ultimately leading the artist to meet and photograph a group of CHWs actively involved in vaccination efforts between 2020 and 2021. More Than Conquerors highlights the human aspect of their stories by elevating their voices: in texts accompanying each portrait, the subject of each image tells their story about becoming involved in community health initiatives. The resulting installation complicates audiences’ expectations of what a monument looks like.

“As each CHW spoke, it was evident and clear that this was an invisible workforce that desired to be seen and heard, that deserved to have their labour, care, advocacy and mutual aid made visible and tangible on a monumental scale,” Frazier told the Hub.

“As with all monuments, the meaning of More Than Conquerors is inseparable from its location,” Emily Wei Rales, the director and co-founder of Glenstone Museum, said in a statement. “For this reason, we were inspired to gift this work to the Baltimore Museum of Art so that the community that these workers serve would also be the primary audience for this powerful installation.”

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