Purdue Pharma and other opioid makers are facing thousands of suits, accusing them of sparking a deadly opioid epidemic. But what’s that got to do with your local art museum this week where public health and public art meet is a powerful place for public action.



Go to a major museum and any of a slew of big cities this summer and you could well get a chance to do much more than look at pictures. People are protesting the funders of some of the world’s most prestigious institutions. And they’re looking not just at the art, but at the names on those buildings more closely.


A case in point the Sackler family, that names become synonymous with giving to the arts. The Sacklers have donated millions to cultural institutions including the Guggenheim and the Met in New York. And the Victorian and Albert and the Tate Museum in London.


Fossil fuel dollars are also becoming increasingly toxic as activists take to the streets in this country and the UK. So what does all this mean for the arts and for public health and our culture? Let’s talk about it with author and activist L. A. Kauffman and Professor Jonathan H. Marks author of a new book, The Perils of Partnership.


And Jess Worth, co-director of Culture Unstained, joining from the UK where her organization is working to end the fossil fuel sponsorship of culture.


sackler protest purdue pharma opioid crisis
Activists holding a protest against the Sackler family in the atrium of Harvard Art Museums in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Friday, July 20. Photo: Tamara Rodriguez Reichberg.


“The same thing goes for institutions. You look at what an institution says it does, its mission, you look at what its purpose is, and its finding document and you look at what it actually does. Those should be consistent. And then you look at the institution you’re taking money from, and you ask the same question, what do they do? What do they say they do? And what are they obligated to do?” – Jonathan H. Marks


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