From left to right: Candice Anderson, Margaret Morton, Tom Finkelpearl, Miguel Luciano, James E. Bartlett, and Nicole Ivy. Photo by Margarita Corporan, courtesy of Cool Culture.
Rethinking a Museum’s Position
Diversifying Institutional Staff
But getting a diverse audience through the door of a museum is only part of what needs to happen. More fundamentally, museums must think self-critically about the structures of power that govern them and who it is that gets to decide what is hung on the walls. In 2015, Finkelpearl sent out a cultural survey to New York City institutions and found that curators—no surprise—remain, for the most part, white people with art history degrees. “The people curating museums need to be more diverse, “ he said. “There needs to be a pipeline.”
Photo by Margarita Corporan, courtesy of Cool Culture.
Structural Opportunities and Next Steps
Towards the end of the discussion, each panelist was asked what should be done to turn ideas of inclusion and diversity into meaningful action. “Talk to artists, engage artists, involve artists in meaningful ways,” said Luciano. “Not in token gestures but in ways that maybe we can have a seat at the table.” Bartlett suggested institutions should start from scratch. “Instead of thinking about the museum as a building, as an entity,” he said, “think about what you want to do.” Social missions shouldn’t be tacked onto museums, he argued.
A Cultural Plan for New York
During the Q&A, Naiomy Guerrero, founder of the GalleryGirl.NYC website, described her own experience growing up in New York City, one in which she was not made aware of the cultural wealth around her. She also drew a distinction between the on-paper commitments museums make to their community and what actually happens, asking Finkelpearl about how his agency’s forthcoming cultural plan for New York City might actually overcome these structural and historical challenges.
Cover image: Exterior view of the Studio Museum in Harlem by Edward Blake, via Flickr.
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