August 21, 2020
Artsy: Calls to diversify leadership in the art world have steadily gained traction in recent years. Spurred by the police killing of George Floyd, the current reckoning with racism (institutional and otherwise) has made these efforts all the more urgent. Despite the pressing need for reform, however, art museums have proven to be reluctant to reflect diversity in their top positions. In 2018, a survey conducted by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) found that only 12% of art museum leaders are people of color, an increase of just 1% from the findings of a similar survey in 2015. Meanwhile, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated in 2019 that just under 40% of the U.S. population identifies as Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC).
“Museums as a subset of the arts and culture sector probably have had the furthest to go and therefore are often the slowest to change as it relates to diversity in top leadership roles,” said Wyona Lynch-McWhite, senior vice president at Arts Consulting Group, a national firm that helps organizations identify, recruit, and place executive leaders. Ostensibly, bringing on new, more diverse leadership is a complicated task for a large, established institution. Most glaringly, there’s the issue of what to do with existing presidents, CEOs, directors, and board members, the vast majority of whom are white, as studies by AAM, the Mellon Foundation, and others have shown. But what if you had the opportunity to build a major museum from scratch? Such is the case with the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in Los Angeles. With substantial constructed scheduled to be completed in 2021, the museum has a rare chance to model what an equitable and inclusive institution might look like from the get-go.