Ford Foundation and Walton Family Foundation launch $6 million effort to diversify art museum leadership

The Walton Family Foundation and Ford Foundation announced today they are each committing $3 million over three years to support creative solutions to diversify curatorial and management staff at art museums across the United States.

Recent studies have shown that the staff and leadership of art museums do not adequately reflect the socio-economic and racial demographics of the country. According to a national study by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, only 16 percent of art museum leadership positions were held by people of color, despite the fact that 38 percent of Americans identify as Asian, Black, Hispanic or multi-racial.

Through the Diversifying Art Museum Leadership Initiative, the Ford Foundation and Walton Family Foundation will support innovative strategies and programs to advance diversity across the sector, including hiring professionals from under-represented populations and offering fellowships, mentorships, and other career development options for diverse professionals. The funded initiatives will affect curatorial and programmatic decision-making in the museums, as well as managerial choices, and lead to long-term benefits for the participating museums and the field as a whole. The outcomes of the funded initiatives will be shared with the larger field, enabling other art institutions to learn from successful approaches.

“For museums to be truly inviting public spaces, they must better reflect the communities they serve. Achieving diversity requires a deeper commitment: To hire and nurture leaders from all backgrounds. This initiative creates the opportunity for museums to build a more inclusive culture within their institutions,” said Alice Walton, founder and board chair of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

“The arts play an essential role in our society by inspiring people of all ages to dream and to imagine new possibilities for themselves, their communities, and the world. To ensure the future health and vibrancy of the arts in America, we need more arts leaders who understand and relate to the deeply varied perspectives and life experiences that weave the rich fabric of our nation,” said Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation.

The Diversifying Art Museum Leadership Initiative will fund 20 pioneering programs at the following art museums:

  • Cleveland Museum of Art, in Cleveland, OH, for a Curatorial Arts Mastery program, career apprenticeships for undergraduate students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and research fellowships.
  • Fisk University Galleries, in Nashville, TN, to develop a new two-year undergraduate museum leadership development certificate program at the university.
  • Hood Museum of Art, in Hanover, NH, to support an associate curator, postdoctoral fellow, and undergraduate intern focused on Native American art.
  • Pérez Art Museum Miami, in Miami, FL, for a post-baccalaureate curatorial fellowship to curate exhibitions based on the museum’s permanent collection.
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art, in Los Angeles, CA, to support two-year post-baccalaureate fellowships to work with the director and head of curatorial affairs.
  • Minneapolis Institute of Art, in Minneapolis, MN, to expand the Native American Fellowship Program and support fellowships for students from diverse cultural backgrounds.
  • New Orleans Museum of Art, in New Orleans, LA, to support internships for students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
  • Newark Museum of Art, in Newark, NJ, for an intensive three-year internship program for undergraduate students.
  • Oakland Museum of California, in Oakland, CA, to support a three-year summer internship, cohort-learning, and leadership development program for undergraduate and graduate level students.
  • Phoenix Art Museum, in Phoenix, AZ, for an annual teen art council, internships for undergraduate and graduate students, and curatorial fellowships focused on Latinx art.
  • Reynolda House Museum of American Art, in Winston-Salem, NC, for post-baccalaureate fellowships, undergraduate internships, and cultural competency and unconscious bias trainings for staff.
  • Saint Louis Art Museum, in St. Louis, MO, to sustain, evaluate, and disseminate lessons from its Romare Bearden Minority Museum Fellowship program.
  • The Studio Museum in Harlem, in New York, NY, for high school, college, and graduate internships, trainings for museum educators, professional development, and a curatorial fellowships partnership with the Museum of Modern Art.
  • Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, in Seattle, WA, for professional development for the museum’s junior staff, paid internships for high school and college students, and a young artist development program.

The Diversifying Art Museum Leadership Initiative is a sponsored project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

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The Ford Foundation

The Ford Foundation is an independent, nonprofit grant-making organization. For more than 80 years it has worked with courageous people on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. With headquarters in New York, the foundation has offices in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.