The American Alliance of Museums has announced a multimillion-dollar initiative to diversify museum leadership across the country.
The project, “Facing Change: Advancing Museum Board Diversity & Inclusion,” will be supported by $4 million in grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Alice L. Walton Foundation and the Ford Foundation.
The funds will go toward training and resources over the next three years that will help museum leaders better reflect the communities they serve.
A recent survey by the alliance found that nearly half of all museum boards in the United States are all white, despite the fact that the majority of museum directors believe diverse and inclusive institutions connect better with the general public and can develop creative solutions to new problems.
The results echoed those of a 2015 national study by the Mellon Foundation, which found that people of color held 16 percent of leadership positions at art museums while 38 percent of Americans identified as Asian, black, Hispanic or multiracial at the time.
“To make real and lasting change, work needs to be done at the top where the tone and priorities for each museum are established,” Laura Lott, the president and chief executive of the alliance, said in a statement. “Museum trustees and leaders can and must do more.”
The alliance hopes to bring about systemic change by introducing diversity standards across the field, leadership development for 50 museums in five cities (which have not yet been named), an online resource center and a program that matches individuals with museum boards.
“Facing Change” falls in line with other recent efforts to address racial disparity in the museum sector.
After decades of exclusion, several prominent institutions have been hiring more minority staff members. In 2017, the Walton Family Foundation and the Ford Foundation donated $6 million over three years to support 20 programs that aim to help art museums nationwide with diversity among curators and top management.
That same year, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that New York City would begin factoring in the diversity of museums’ staff members when making funding decisions. “We do this because we believe in fairness,” he said.