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Art & Culture

New Initiative Aims to Diversify Leadership in Art Museums

  • Culture.org
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  • May 6, 2023
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  • 3 minute read
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New Initiative Aims to Diversify Leadership in Art Museums
Key Takeaways
  • The Leadership in Art Museums (LAM) initiative aims to increase racial equity in leadership positions across various museum departments.
  • The initiative is backed by funding partners, including the Alice L. Walton Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, and Pilot House Philanthropy, who will commit $11 million over the next five years.
  • 19 museums across the U.S. have been selected for the LAM initiative and have committed to creating or sustaining diverse leadership positions, making these positions permanent after the five-year funding cycle and developing a diverse pool of applicants inclusive of communities of color.
  • The LAM initiative aims to ensure that museums remain relevant and serve their communities effectively by increasing access to museum roles for communities of color, regardless of where the institution is located.
  • LAM builds on previous and existing efforts to create racial equity in leadership roles across the art museum field and aims to achieve lasting change within the art museum sector.

 

The Alice L. Walton Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, and Pilot House Philanthropy have joined forces to establish the Leadership in Art Museums (LAM) initiative. 

Over the next five years, these organizations will commit $11 million to increase racial equity in leadership positions across various museum departments, including curatorial, conservation, education, and community engagement.

Addressing the Gap in Art Museum Leadership Diversity

Although the Mellon Foundation’s Art Museum Staff Demographic Surveys show a rise in diversity among staff at major art museums, there is still significant underrepresentation of people of color in leadership roles.

Between 2015 and 2022, the percentage of people of color in leadership positions increased from 18% to 27%.

The LAM initiative aims to diversify perspectives and experiences in art institutions, ensuring their ongoing vibrancy and relevance.

Supporting 19 Museums Across the U.S.

Nineteen museums have been selected for the LAM initiative, which will create or sustain diverse leadership positions at their institutions.

These museums have committed to making these positions permanent after the five-year funding cycle and to developing a diverse pool of applicants inclusive of communities of color. 

The participating institutions include major museums, such as the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, as well as smaller museums like the Riverside Art Museum and the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens in Jacksonville, Florida.

Although the Mellon Foundation’s Art Museum Staff Demographic Surveys show a rise in diversity among staff at major art museums, there is still significant underrepresentation of people of color in leadership roles.

A Shared Vision for Inclusive Art Institutions

The LAM recipients represent a variety of regions across the U.S., and they all share a commitment to developing and nurturing leadership roles that will create a more inclusive art world.

By increasing access to museum roles for communities of color, regardless of where the institution is located, the LAM initiative aims to ensure that museums remain relevant and serve their communities effectively.

As part of the initiative, some museums have announced new leadership positions, such as the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens’ Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole curator position.

This role, named after the internationally renowned educator and cultural leader, will help the museum become a center of beauty for all, according to Andrea Barnwell Brownlee, the museum’s director.

Building on Past Efforts for Long-Lasting Impact

LAM will build on previous and existing efforts to create racial equity in leadership roles across the art museum field.

This initiative will draw on the experience and impact of the Diversifying Art Museum Leadership project, the Black Trustee Alliance for Art Museums, and related initiatives like the Mellon Foundation’s ongoing Art Museum Staff Demographic Survey.

By collaborating with a dedicated group of funding partners, the LAM initiative aims to achieve lasting change within the art museum sector.

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