A former program officer at the Mellon Foundation, Gilchrest added that under a lot of early-career investment programs that have been part of the Mellon Foundation’s focus, young talents of diverse backgrounds often clashed with museum workplace climates, finding hostility, microaggression, and a lack of ownership at the top of the museums where they were.
Diversity needs to be addressed from the top down, but to achieve board diversity, all dimensions need to be tackled, according to Fogarty, who has been OMCA’s director since 2006. “It’s been the programming and content, the exhibitions that we do, the work that we acquire for the collection, the public programs,” she said. “There’s a very public-facing piece of it, and the work we do with partners in the community and developing audiences, and then it’s also the internal work of our staff and board.” Located in one of the most racially diverse cities in the Bay Area, the museum’s board membership has been roughly 40% members of color since about 2015.
The process by which Fogarty brought King into the fold was very organic, but also required healthy systems and structures to already be in place. At OMCA, board members’ terms last three years, and they can serve up to three consecutive terms. As a result, recruiting new board members is a constant task. “Every year we look at the current board and say, ‘Where do we need to bring in some new perspectives?’ We always are thinking about diversity in all definitions of that,” Fogarty said.