Hood Receives a Grant to Diversify Art Museum Leadership

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The award will support a team to focus on Native American art.

Vera Palmer lecturing a group of students
Vera Palmer, a senior lecturer in Native American Studies, teaches “Perspectives in Native American Studies” in the Hood’s Bernstein Study-Storage Center in 2011. (Photo courtesy of the Hood Museum of Art)

The Hood Museum of Art is among the first art museums in the country to receive a newly announced Diversifying Art Museum Leadership Initiative joint grant of $6 million from the Walton Family Foundation and the Ford Foundation. The Hood received a grant in the amount of $313,529. The complete project will be supported through a combination of the award and required matching funds.

Each foundation is committing $3 million over three years to support creative solutions to diversifying curatorial and management staff at art museums across the United States.

The three-year grant, for 2018 through 2020, will allow the Hood to hire an associate curator of Native American art, a Native American art graduate fellow, and a Native American art undergraduate intern to conduct research on the collections, collaborate with campus and community stakeholders to teach with the collections, and produce an exhibition in the museums galleries, accompanied by a scholarly publication. The award will fund the three positions for the duration of the grant period. An evaluation of the project’s success, combined with concurrent fundraising, will determine the sustainability of the project beyond the grant period.

“We are pleased to be advancing the commitment that Dartmouth has made to Native American studies through the establishment of a team at the Hood that will study, collect, and exhibit Native American art from the past and the present,” says John Stomberg, the Virginia Rice Kelsey 1961s Director of the Hood Museum of Art. “Despite Dartmouth’s long interest in this area, these new positions mark the first time the Hood will have a curator dedicated to its collection, which already includes approximately 4,000 Native American works of art and material culture.”

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.

“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,” says 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,” says Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation.

Through the initiative, the Ford and Walton Family foundations 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.

The Diversifying Art Museum Leadership Initiative will fund initiatives at 20 pioneering art museums. In addition to the Hood, they are the Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburg, Pa.; Art Institute of Chicago; Clark Atlanta University Art Museum  and Zuckerman Museum of Art at Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, Ga. (partnership); Cleveland Museum of Art; Fisk University Galleries, Nashville, Tenn.; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; Pérez Art Museum Miami; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Minneapolis Institute of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara; National Museum of Mexican Art and DuSable Museum of African American History, Chicago, Ill. (partnership); New Orleans Museum of Art; Newark Museum of Art; Oakland Museum of California; Phoenix Art Museum; Reynolda House Museum of American Art, Winston-Salem, N.C.; St. Louis Art Museum; The Studio Museum in Harlem; and Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, Seattle.

The Diversifying Art Museum Leadership Initiative is fiscally sponsored by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

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