Diversity in the boardroom

Industry panel asks are museums in crisis?

By Stephen Weir: The winds of change are about to begin blowing through the boardrooms of public art galleries and museums in Ontario. On Thursday a panel of art experts will be meeting online at the Ontario Museum Association’s (OMA) annual meeting to talk the talk about the lack of diversity at the top!
The industry wide discussion is self-titled “Are Museums in Crisis” inspired by a number of recent articles in both the Canadian Art Magazine and the Toronto Globe and Mail.  These well-respected publications have published articles that report that the vast majority of people running public art galleries and museums are white while employees and cultural consumers alike want change!
A panel discussion about having more exhibition and shows by  non-white artists? No, right now the issue is diversity in terms of who is running our public cultural organizations - curators, executives and boards members.

The keynote OMA four-person panel discussion about race and the inner running of our art galleries and museums is not open to the public. On the panel are the Globe's long-time arts columnist Kate Taylor, Shelley Falconer (the CEO of the Art Gallery of Hamilton), Julie Crooks (the curator of Art Gallery of Ontario's just established Arts of Global Africa and the Diaspora department) and Janis Monture, (head of the Six Nation's Woodland Cultural Centre). 

“There’s a bad outbreak troubling Canada’s museums – and it’s not COVID. Allegations of harassment, racism and overweening management are erupting at the big institutions, sending their boards scurrying to human resource consultants as they issue contrite statements to the press. Large and historic organizations, the museums look like lumbering beasts as they struggle to adapt to new social demands,” wrote Kate Taylor in her seminal Globe and Mail column, It's time for Canada's museum to walk the walk.

Tomorrow morning’s discussion will be chaired by Gail Lord. She is the CEO of Lord Cultural Resources, a Toronto based global professional company which offers museum and cultural planning services.
“The museums are now facing the same demands to get with the program as any large employer; calls for more diversity and gender equity in the workplace are widespread while social media offers people with complaints a means to bypass systems that aren’t helping them,” continues Taylor's article. “And cultural organizations, the beneficiaries of both public grants and a certain glamour quotient, are held to a higher social standard than private companies.”

Taylor’s column appeared earlier this fall.  Meanwhile Canadian Art Magazine has been publishing ongoing research data into just who is running galleries and museum in the country.
The magazine did a detailed survey of who the movers and shakers are within Canada’s large museums and galleries.  The results? The stats show that our institution leadership is heavily skewed towards White people.

The entire pool of arts professionals in (the magazine’s) survey consists of 184 persons, and of these, just shy of 92% are Caucasian, just less than 4% are Indigenous and just more than 4% are visible minorities.”

While there are large issues in terms of the make-up of Canada’s cultural industry there is good news too.  At the Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives in Brampton, the facility is now being run  by Jamaican Canadian Renee Nand.  Their new art exhibition this month? when night stirred at sea: Contemporary Caribbean Art.

Last week I sent out a story about Jamaican Canadian Karen Carter, the cofounder of the Toronto's Black art collective gallery (BAND) who has just been hired to head up the The MacLaren Art Centre. It is a large art gallery and museum located in Barrie, Ontario, 




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