October 11, 2020—Scores of arts and cultural institutions this year have been reaffirming their commitment to Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Access (EDI&A) initiatives, and I have been documenting the planning, strategies and action steps being proposed. One of the major constraints consistently mentioned is the lack of financial resources to fund their proposed efforts.
However, some institutions are taking bold steps; they are looking internally to see what resources are potentially available. Recently, the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) decided to take such action, announcing the establishment of an “Endowment for the Future,” which it will fund with a portion of the proceeds from the deaccession of three works in its collection.
According to the museum’s public announcement, the deaccession is expected to generate approximately $65-million. The museum announced it would use $10-million of the proceeds to acquire artworks made by women and artists of color with either historic or present-time ties to Baltimore.
The museum also plans to immediately allocate $500-thousand from the sale for the creation and implementation of an institutional plan for internal and external EDI&A initiatives. The plan will be developed with the assistance of industry-recognized consultants in the areas of racial and gender equity, disability, and indigeneity in the cultural sphere. Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole, former director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, is BMA’s Special Counsel on Strategic Initiatives, and is working with the museum’s team.
Planning, developing and executing an initiative to build an anti-racist arts organization or cultural institution first requires the conviction of its leaders that this work is integral to the institution’s mission. It also requires financial resources in order to develop a long-term plan. There is no quick and easy solution because, ultimately, we are talking about the process of helping people open their eyes and hearts to see what other ways are possible in order for there to be a shift in attitudes and behavior. I envision this process to be much like weaving a quilt—the mission of EDI&A; the staff and the community are woven and bound together through the creative work(s), to reflect what the organization is truly about.
I am inspired by this current drive within some arts organizations to make EDI&A initiatives a number one priority and to do whatever it takes to make it happen. That’s the commitment necessary for building an anti-racist arts organization or cultural institution, and ultimately an anti-racist society.
As always, I would like to know what the readers of Arts & Culture Connections think: Do you believe the allocation of internal resources is important for funding EDI&A initiatives? If not, what ways do you recommend arts organizations come up with the funding? Please share your thoughts below.