A new legal entity, CultureTrust, is launching an ambitious diversity initiative at dozens of museums around the country. The new organization, owned by nonprofit funders, will seek partnerships with government and corporate partners to hire, promote and retain minority artists, historians and staff as full-time staff or with flexible contracts.
“The commitment to diversity at our country’s museums is woefully inadequate,” said Susan Cohn Stumberg, the trustees of CultureTrust and chair of the administration. “And museums that take the initiative do so not only because they stand to benefit, but because it’s a good idea.”
Three Black museum trustees are joining forces with 12 successful and diverse artists and philanthropists to launch the initiative, with contributions from the Knight Foundation, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Ford Foundation, The Heinz Family Foundation, the Pritzker Family Foundation, The Spencer Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Taubman Family Foundation, and Linda and Howard Rose.
The museum trustees who are forming CultureTrust are Mrs. Martha Beck, Joan Noel Appel, Jay Ann Croxton, Linda Hayes Chenot, David Dailey, Sarah Park Cooper, Laurie D. Rauh, Amy WIlliams, Jim Russell, Jay Russell, Yakel Smith-Tynes, Louise Tzipporah Simons, Deborah Watkins, Maria Waters, Pierre Wilkinson and Ericka Walker.
“Museums operate at the intersection of art and history,” said Mrs. Beck, whose social justice-focused Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation is supporting the organization’s efforts. “But because of their vast reach, they have the potential to expand access and address racial disparities in contemporary society.”
Art museums are not alone in grappling with the issue of diverse cultural engagement and its effect on attendance. In the past year, urban museums such as the Whitney Museum and the Guggenheim New York and suburban museums such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Baltimore Museum of Art have said they want to be more diverse in their work and will be launching initiatives aimed at involving both museum staff and visitors in projects aimed at addressing racial equity and inclusion.
“Museums are engines of power,” said Chairman Susan Cohn Stumberg, who is also the Knight Foundation’s chair. “For decades they have been critical to bringing diverse people together around the shared experience of art and exploration. Museums that actively engage, recruit and retain an engaged and diverse workforce are best positioned to provide our nation’s history and culture with the context and connections that foster a truly inclusive society.”