Art Market

The Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit fired its executive director following accusations of abusive leadership.

Justin Kamp
Jul 30, 2020 3:03PM, via Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit

The Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit. Photo by Kevin Chang, via Flickr.

The Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) fired executive director Elysia Borowy-Reeder following her suspension earlier this month after a letter signed by more than 70 former employees claimed she had created a hostile, racist work environment at the museum. The letter, which was released by the group MOCAD Resistance, claimed Borowy-Reeder engaged in “racist micro-aggressions, mis-gendering, violent verbal outbursts,” and similar offenses as executive director, a position she has held since 2013.

In a statement announcing Borowy-Reeder’s termination, MOCAD’s board of directors stated that she “fell short of [MOCAD’s] goals for diversity, inclusivity, and a healthy work environment,” and that the decision was reached following an independent investigation led by members of the board.

Elyse Foltyn, chair of the board of directors, said in a statement:

We have tried to deliver on diversity, equity and inclusion since our inception. However, it is clear we need to do more, better and faster. MOCAD’s plan of action going forward will affect our hiring and employment practices, artist relationships, internal communications and the Board’s by-laws, which define how we operate. We want to return to being a platform for everyone in the community and a venue to exhibit sometimes controversial art that might otherwise not be seen but inspires conversations.

Borowy-Reeder’s termination comes as institutions across the United States grapple with their complicity in upholding abusive systems of power. Earlier this month, roughly 270 current and former staffers accused the J. Paul Getty Museum, the J. Paul Getty Trust, and the Getty Research Institute of racism and lack of transparency. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) has faced similar backlash, with five senior staffers departing since accusations of institutional racism surfaced in late May. The museum has since announced a new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Plan, to be completed by December.

Further Reading: Pushed to Address Systemic Racism, Museums Face a Reckoning

Justin Kamp
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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019