January 16, 2019; New York Times
The American Alliance of Museums (AAM) has announced that a number of the nation’s foundations have put together a $4 million grant pool to help push the boards of their members to become more “diverse and inclusive.” The investment certainly does not come out of the blue, in that AAM has created an atmosphere in which their member boards’ failings in this regard are starkly exhibited. NPQ covered one of their surveys in 2017, which showed that 46 percent of museum boards were all-white, compared to 30 percent of nonprofit boards.
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Investments in the grant pool are being made by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Alice L. Walton Foundation, and the Ford Foundation. These funders all have shown a deep interest in the effort. A 2015 national study by the Mellon Foundation, for instance, found that people of color held only 16 percent of leadership positions at art museums, and the Ford Foundation has been involved in the effort to link city funding to inclusion in New York City’s art scene, among many similar endeavors. Additionally, Ford previously paired with the Walton Family Foundation to donate $6 million to support 20 programs that help art museums increase diversity among curators and top management.
The New York Times reports that the alliance hopes to bring about systemic change by, among other things, “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.” It will be interesting to discover which of these strategies, if any, work to nurture real inclusion—not mere diversity—and what course corrections will be made along the way.—Ruth McCambridge