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The MFA Boston launched a $500,000 diversity and inclusion fund following racist incidents.

Daria Simone Harper
May 6, 2020 3:48PM, via Artforum

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Photo by Omar David Sandoval Sida, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) Boston has started a new $500,000 fund for diversity and inclusion initiatives. This decision follows an incident at the institution last spring when a school group complained that students of color were subjected to racist remarks by staff and excessive security scrutiny during their visit. The new fund was developed as part of an agreement with the state of Massachusetts succeeding its investigation into allegations of racial discrimination brought by the Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy in Dorchester.

Attorney General Maura Healey said in a statement quoted by Artforum:

Our cultural institutions play an important role in fostering and providing an inclusive environment for communities and people of all backgrounds. Today’s agreement affirms the experiences of students and teachers from the Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy and lifts up their voices and the voices of local communities of color to help shape change and greater understanding. This agreement lays out processes which can serve as a model for cultural institutions in our ongoing collective work to build diversity and inclusivity in Boston and well beyond.

Last May, a teacher at the academy took a group of 30 students on a field trip to MFA. She filed a complaint with the institution’s visitor services office after her students said an employee told them that “no food, no drink, and no watermelon” were permitted in the galleries. The students also said they were followed through the museum by a security guard and were subjected to derogatory remarks from two visitors. A week later, the museum apologized to the school; it has since banned the visitors accused of making disparaging comments.

According to Artforum, the MFA will work with the Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy on an “action plan” to move forward as part of its agreement with the state. The museum plans to develop new programs including internships, working with organizations that primarily serve students of color, and partnering with local artists of color. The MFA has adjusted its existing polices and plans to put anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies into effect to better direct staff on interacting with members of the public and handling the mistreatment of museumgoers by other visitors.

Further Reading: Meet the Chief Diversity Officer Overhauling the Phillips Collection

Daria Simone Harper