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The Cleveland Museum of Art announces major initiative to address lack of diversity in art museums
Leadership grants to support efforts to diversify museum staffing and expand outreach. Photo: Keith Berr Photography.

CLEVELAND, OH.- The Cleveland Museum of Art announced today the creation of a citywide diversity initiative to address the long-standing lack of diversity in the museum profession. The CMA joins a national cohort of museums that have received funding under the Ford and Walton Family Foundations’ Diversifying Art Museum Leadership Initiative (DAMLI). According to a report by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation conducted in 2015, only 16 percent of senior museum positions are held by persons of color. This funding, combined with a grant from the Cleveland Foundation through its Arts Mastery Initiative, will support the Diversity Leadership Initiative at the Cleveland Museum of Art. This program draws together multiple anchor institutions with the aim of nurturing and developing talent for the field. The CMA recognizes that diversity within its staff, collections and visitors is fundamental to its success.

“Developing a more diverse staff will make the CMA a more effective museum,” said Director William M. Griswold. “We are delighted to partner in this endeavor that will strengthen the museum field by developing talent for the future. We are excited about the possibilities as we build a national model for such partnerships.”

Cyra Levenson, Director of Education and Academic Affairs, said, “We are investing in young people. The future of the humanities depends on our ability to engage students and encourage them to pursue careers in arts and culture. This requires providing a pathway to a future they might not have otherwise seen and building networks of support to see them through.”

In partnership with several of Cleveland’s anchor institutions, including the Cleveland Foundation, Cleveland Public Library, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland State University and Cuyahoga Community College, the initiative activates numerous goals outlined in the CMA’s 10-year strategic plan. It deepens the museum’s commitment to becoming a teaching museum, to cultivating far-reaching institutional collaborations, and to championing diversity, equity and inclusion at every level of the institution and in its community. Through a multitiered mentorship program that combines research and practice, students from high school through graduate school will gain new insights, produce new scholarship, engage new audiences, and lend new voices to the museum’s collections, demonstrating how they speak with relevance and energy to a broad public.

“For museums to be truly inviting public spaces, they must better reflect the communities they serve,” said Alice Walton, founder and board chair of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. “Achieving diversity requires a deeper commitment: To hire and nurture leaders from all backgrounds. This initiative creates the opportunity for museums to build a more inclusive culture within their institutions.”

“We are delighted to partner with the Cleveland Museum of Art, the other local community partners and our colleagues at the Ford and Walton Family Foundations,” said Ronn Richard, CEO of the Cleveland Foundation. “This effort is a natural extension of our arts mastery program that has already grown to include more than 1,500 students in underserved neighborhoods.

The Diversity Leadership Initiative at the Cleveland Museum of Art is generously funded by a Ford and Walton Family Foundations grant of $368,400, which will support undergraduate student guides, graduate student fellowships and scholars-in-residence programs at the CMA, and by a matching grant from the Cleveland Foundation of $368,520, which will support a Curatorial Arts Mastery Program (CAMP) for high school students. Both grants will also fund two national conferences at the Cleveland Museum of Art, making Cleveland the site of a fundamentally significant national discussion.

Key Programs and Launch Dates:

JANUARY 2018 The Curatorial Arts Mastery Program will be launched in an effort to engage high school students across the city and to connect participants with CMA staff, resources and graduate student mentors as they utilize local archival collections to conceptualize, research and design exhibitions for select library branches. This program is supported by the Cleveland Foundation and organized in partnership with the Cleveland Public Library.

SPRING 2018 An undergraduate student guide program will target local community college, college and university students from underrepresented communities. Students from any discipline will be trained on how to conduct art historical research and to create thematic public tours that relate to their fields of study and that offer new ways of presenting the CMA’s permanent collection.

SUMMER 2018 The CMA’s Director’s Fellows Program for undergraduate students studying at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) will expand from two to four career apprenticeships, through which they gain in-depth knowledge of museum careers by working on a significant project.

SUMMER 2018 Seven competitive graduate student fellowships will encourage scholarly work through a public humanities summer institute, in which the fellows will mentor high school students and have access to senior scholars through the scholars-in-residence program, as well as opportunities to publish or otherwise build their curriculum vitae.

SUMMER 2018 Two to three research residencies for senior scholars, museum professionals and artist-scholars will support research that could only be conducted utilizing the CMA’s unique collections. Participants will contribute to discussions with graduate fellows in an effort to steward their career choices.

SPRING 2019 & WINTER 2020 A national convening during the second and third years of the grant period will bring together multiple DAMLI-funded peer institutions at the Cleveland Museum of Art to discuss challenges, best practices and new frontiers.

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