A 2105 study by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation found that African Americans make up just 4 percent of the curators, conservators, educators, and leaders at American art museums. In an effort to increase the number of African Americans and scholars from other underrepresented groups in museum leadership positions, the Ford Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation have provided $6 million to fund the Diversifying Art Museum Leadership Initiative.
Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, stated that “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.”
The new initiative will support innovative strategies and programs to advance diversity across the sector, including hiring professionals from underrepresented populations and offering fellowships, mentorships, and other career development options for diverse professionals. Twenty art museums will be provided funds to support their diversity efforts.
Two of the 20 art museums are at historically Black colleges and universities. The Clark Atlanta University Art Museum and the Museum of Art at Kennesaw State University in Georgia will share a grant to fund post baccalaureate fellowships. Fisk University in Nashville will receive funds to develop a new two-year undergraduate museum leadership certificate program.