Arts and Culture

Study Shows Art Museum Staffs are Way Too White

A nationwide survey done on Art Museum staff diversity in America showed that 72% of museum jobs are held by white people.  Not only do minorities hold only 28% of museum jobs, but people of color are typically employed in jobs like security or maintenance, while leadership and executive roles are overwhelmingly held by white people.  #MuseumsSoWhite.

There’s some good news though.  The enlightened folks at The Mellon Foundation are going to study the problem further and guide museum leadership to improve diversity in the staffing of America’s Museums.  The effort to make our museums reflect our communities is a powerful and important one.  Diversity, as we know strengthens society, and our art and museums deserve the same treatment.

Here are more details provided by Mellon:

Series Will Build From Findings of Mellon’s 2015 Nationwide Survey of Art Museum Staff Diversity

NEW YORK, Feb. 22, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation today announced it will support the creation of a series of case studies designed to guide museum leadership teams in creating successful, forward-thinking plans to improve diversity and inclusivity in their staffing practices. The case studies, to be created in partnership with the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) and research firm Ithaka S+R, will help a wide variety of art museums, across both urban and rural areas, address a pervasive lack of diversity in the museum community.

“We know historically underrepresented minorities still lack a clear pathway toward leadership within museums. The great majority of the 28 percent of museum employees from minority backgrounds do not have jobs that typically lead to leadership positions,” said Mariët Westermann, executive vice president of the Mellon Foundation. “We hope that these case studies will provide a helpful reference to museums around the country as a set of successful practices and concrete suggestions for action.”

The case studies are designed to build on the Mellon Foundation’s “2015 Art Museum Staff Demographic Survey,” which was the first comprehensive study of staff diversity ever conducted on museums. The study, undertaken by Ithaka S+R, found the vast majority of art museum positions – 72 percent – are held by white employees, with employees of color concentrated in facilities, security, and human resources jobs that lack a clear path to advancement to the most influential positions within the institutions. Among museum curators, conservators, educators, and leaders, only 4 percent of employees are African American, and 3 percent are Hispanic.

The Mellon Foundation envisions that this series of case studies could help museum leaders learn from each other’s efforts as they collectively endeavor to make their institutions more reflective of their communities.

“These case studies of museums that have been successful in achieving a remarkable degree of diversity will instruct our commuapidly changing demographics, and how to create a more forward-looking internal culture in which every person has a well-supported and clear pathway to success.”

The eight case studies will be selected from a broad array of cultural institutions, from the encyclopedic to the culturally specific, in an effort to make the series accessible and instructive for all art museums with an interest in improving their training, management, and recruitment strategies. The museums to be profiled in the studies have successfully designed inclusive strategies to diversify their staffs, and are leading the way in opening up fields historically dominated by white men to women and to employees of color. “The quantitative analysis from the survey of museum employee demographics facilitated a deeper understanding of the national composition of this sector,” said Catharine Bond Hill, Managing Director of Ithaka S+R. “This series of case studies will offer a qualitative component to the research, allowing us to explore issues of inclusion and equity, in order to provide leaders in the sector with a more nuanced perspective and, ultimately, to help them effect change.”

ABOUT THE ANDREW W. MELLON FOUNDATION
Founded in 1969, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation endeavors to strengthen, promote, and, where necessary, defend the contributions of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the well-being of diverse and democratic societies by supporting exemplary institutions of higher education and culture as they renew and provide access to an invaluable heritage of ambitious, path-breaking work. Additional information is available at mellon.org.

ABOUT THE ASSOCIATION OF ART MUSEUM DIRECTORS
The Association of Art Museum Directors—representing 244 art museum directors in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico—promotes the vital role of art museums throughout North America and advances the profession by cultivating leadership and communicating standards of excellence in museum practice. Further information about AAMD’s professional practice guidelines and position papers is available at www.aamd.org.

ABOUT ITHAKA S+R
Ithaka S+R (www.sr.ithaka.org) is a not-for-profit service that helps the academic and cultural communities navigate economic, demographic and technological change. Our aim is to broaden access to higher education by reducing costs while also improving student outcomes. We approach this goal with a legacy of working with universities and colleges as well as the institutions that support teaching and research—libraries, publishing organizations, cultural institutions, and scholarly societies. Ithaka S+R is part of ITHAKA (www.ithaka.org).

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