INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION FORCULTURAL PROPERTY PROTECTION
Reposted from Harvard Business Review
“We are committed to a balanced gender distribution and value a variety of backgrounds and experiences among our employees.”
“All applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”
“Experience the difference. Make the difference!”
Statements like these are common in job postings these days. Hiring diverse employees has become a critical goal for organizations around the world. And yet, many companies are failing to bring in a diverse workforce.
One reason for continued lack of diversity is that even if similarly qualified candidates from diverse backgrounds apply for job openings, recruiters, because of implicit biases, gravitate toward candidates with identities that fit a stereotype (e.g., men in the technology industry). Our research identified an economic, convenient, and effective intervention to nudge recruiters to select more diverse candidates: partitioning candidates into different categories.
Our research built on the partition dependence bias, which occurs when people have to choose multiple options out of many available options. When the options are grouped together based on a given dimension, people tend to think, “Let’s choose some from each category.” Therefore, people tend to choose some options from each group, ultimately choosing more diverse options.
Our paper recently published in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes describes eight experiments in which we asked people to review job candidates’ profiles or resumes and choose a few candidates to interview. We either categorized the candidates along a diversity-related dimension (e.g., gender, ethnicity, nationality, or university) or just randomly interspersed them. In every experiment, we found that when candidates were categorized on a given dimension, people chose more diverse candidates on that dimension.
For instance, we conducted a study with 121 experienced HR professionals who had an average of eight years of HR-related experience. We asked them to download a zipped folder containing resumes of 16 job applicants who graduated from one of four top universities. In one version of the study, the order of the resumes was random and did not vary by university. In the other version, the resumes from each school were contiguous in the folder (i.e., the files in the folder were sorted alphabetically). All HR managers were asked to select four candidates to interview. We found that when the resumes were randomly interspersed, 14% of managers chose candidates from all four universities, but this number more than doubled to 35% when the resumes were grouped together by university. We found similar results when we grouped candidates by gender, either by listing them contiguously or by using a paper clip to hold their printed resumes together. We found similar results when grouping candidates by ethnicity and nationality.
In two of the experiments, we found that grouping candidates together increased the diversity of the selected candidates without reducing the quality of the selected candidates. For example, when male and female candidates differed in their mean college GPAs, grouping men and women candidates led managers to choose more gender-diverse candidates but did not affect the average GPA of those selected.
What about cases in which a manager can select only a single candidate rather than multiple candidates? Here, we presented people with brief profiles of six job candidates, three of which were European American, one African American, one Latin American, and one Asian American. In one condition of the experiment, all candidates were listed on a separate line on the screen. In another condition, European American candidates were listed contiguously on a single line, but minority applicants were listed individually on separate lines. When majority candidates were grouped together but minority candidates were listed separately, 15% more people chose a minority candidate.
To implement this strategy in the workplace, when sending resumes of applicants to hiring managers, organizations can put all resumes of candidates from well-represented backgrounds in sub-folders, but put resumes of candidates from under-represented backgrounds in the main folder (without grouping them into sub-folders). The relevant group-related information (e.g., gender) can be collected in the application form, and the application website can be programmed to automatically put candidates from different groups into different folders. The folders can be named “Batch 1,” “Batch 2,” etc. to avoid explicitly drawing attention to the grouping.
One limitation of our nudging strategy is that if managers have strong biases against a particular group, then putting candidates from that group into a separate category has no effect on their hiring decisions — they’re still unlikely to select someone from that group. This nudge is only likely to work when managers don’t have strong biases against a particular group.
Importantly, this intervention does not restrict managers in any way — they are absolutely free to choose whichever candidates that they want. It only draws managers’ attention to qualified minority candidates who might otherwise not attract their attention.
Overall, if companies want to bring in more diverse talent, they need to change the way they hire new employees. Our research identifies a simple but effective tool — partitioning candidates into different categories — that can help organizations build more diverse workforces without restricting managers’ choices.
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Reposted from Artnet News
The resistance formed across the country with speed and fury.
In Richmond there were late night brainstorming Zoom calls. In San Francisco, hours-long FaceTime strategizing sessions and iPhone group chats stretched late into the night. In New Orleans, days were bookended—before work and after dinner—with exhaustive group calls and virtual meetups. And in between all of this, websites were constructed, social media campaigns hammered out and calls made to local and national media.
While the US became embroiled in its largest protest movement ever following the murder of George Floyd, another reckoning was taking hold in the art world. Hundreds of workers at dozens of the nation’s top museums—artists and frontline staff, curators and gallery attendants, educators, historians and more—engaged in their own series of organized protests.
By way of a flurry of damning open letters and petitions addressed to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Akron Art Museum, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Guggenheim in New York City, and others, hundreds of staffers called out what has been described as a decades-long culture of racism within the American art world.
The allegations have resulted in the resignation of top officials, verbal promises to make systemic changes in policy and hiring practices, and a seemingly full-throated commitment to equity throughout some of the country’s top museums.
“America is changing, and museums need to change with it,” said Jennifer Williams, a former youth and family programs manager at the New Orleans Museum of Art. Williams, along with five other former staff members formed the group #DismantleNOMA, and penned the open letter condemning the museum’s “plantation culture” and issuing a list of demands.
The idea of openly addressing the museum in a public letter first came to Williams last October after learning of plans to permanently install “The Greenwood Parlor,” a historical exhibition devoted to the interior of a former plantation in St. Francisville, Louisiana. “I was literally watching a monument to white supremacy being installed,” she said. “The New Orleans Museum of Art considers itself a cultural convener. In word, they say they are a community space. We wanted to hold the institution accountable to that. If you say you are this community space, are you going to really be that?”
The breaking point for Jane Wood, who resigned as the museum’s manager of visitor engagement in September, came when she noticed a lack of concern for the way the few Black staff at the museum were treated by its human resources department, including its attempt to ban dreadlocks and its uneven enforcement of paid leave and bereavement guidelines when it came to Black employees. “There were clear different sets of expectations for Black and LGBTQ staff,” she said.
By March, when Williams herself tendered her resignation citing issues of diversity and inequity, the idea of a public reckoning began bubbling up again. Two months later, after consulting with current and former museum colleagues, Williams, Woods and four other authors began organizing.
Altogether, the authors say they represent part of the 30 employees who have resigned from the museum in the past two years due to a toxic and racist work environment.
“We would literally spend hours on Zoom calls. Some lasted for as long as five hours,” Woods said of their meetings. “And this is time we’re finding in between our daily lives. We all have our own employment situations, our own life situations. The challenge was to find time. To make time.”
After 10 days of “pretty fast and furious” writing and editing, the cohort decided to release the letter the morning of June 24 on a website they had procured, in addition to Twitter and Instagram.
“Not only is there a recently installed plantation exhibition on display at the museum, but there also exists a plantation-like culture behind its facade,” the letter read.
“We were tired of asking,” Williams said. “We wanted a radical change of leadership, of thought, and of direction.”
The letter went live, purposefully, moments before the museum’s customary 10 a.m. staff meeting.
“I don’t think I slept the whole night before,” Williams said. “And the seven days after I just couldn’t sleep well.”
Aside from the draining task of churning out the letter in such short order, there was added pressure, Williams and Woods said, of knowing they were signing their names to a document calling out some of the most powerful people in an insular, closely-knit local community.
In a statement posted to its website, the museum issued an apology to the DismantleNOMA movement, its staff, and the New Orleans community. In response to demands, the museum also committed to closing the Greenwood Parlor exhibit, acquiring more art from Black, Indigenous, and other artists of color from the local community and increasing the diversity of its board of directors.
Since nationwide protests began in late May, several major companies and institutions in sports, media, tech, fashion, business and beyond have been slammed by employees accusing them of abusing power. The admonitions have been made public in a variety of ways—tweet storms, media exposés, leaked internal documents. Yet art workers representing several of the published letters say they decided intentionally on the open letter as the most effective way of both giving voice to those who felt wronged and holding those in power to account.
“Museums can be really good at obscuring and keeping things internal,” said one of the writers of the open letter condemning a culture of racism and sexual harassment against the Virginia Museum of Fine Art, who asked to remain anonymous.
Published on June 21 by the VMFA Reform Committee, a group of former and current employees, the open letter and petition, posted to Change.org, was one of the first letters this summer to be published decrying a culture of racism and white supremacy at a museum in the wake of the George Floyd protests.
“That obscurity is one of the ways [museums] hurt people. Having a public letter brings it all out to the forefront. It creates public awareness.”
Woods agrees. “An exposé would have been wonderful, but what the open letter adds is the opportunity to get testimonials from people from all walks of life and for people to add their voice.”
In each of the open letters released, workers and supporters have been able to add their own personal stories of perceived wrongdoing, adding, the authors say, to the veracity of the claims.
“The letter format is a tool that’s been used a lot,” says Taylor Brandon, a former communications associate at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and one of three authors of a letter condemning the museum for deleting critical comments she left on its Instagram post about Floyd’s death.
“As opposed to just saying ‘this was wrong,’ it’s saying, ‘this is what’s wrong and here’s what you need to do moving forward.’”
Within days of the museum’s deleting Brandon’s post (and an ensuing uproar on social media), members of the NURE Collective, an all-Black group of artists whose work was being showcased at the museum, withdrew their work from view and reached out to Brandon to speak out on her behalf.
“We felt used by SFMOMA,” said Yétundé Olagbaju, a member of NURE and one of the SFMOMA letter’s authors.
“I feel like they explicitly worked with us because we are a collective of all-Black individuals. Then to turn around and be disrespectful to a Black person like that, who is sort of in our extended community? It felt disrespectful.”
So Brandon, Olagbaju, and Arrington West, NURE’s founder, banded with Brandon and other local Black artist collectives to form the resistance group No Neutral Alliance and to draft the framework of a letter that began as a condemnation of Brandon’s censorship, but grew into much more.
Over the next 10 days, the trio interviewed current and former SFMOMA workers (some employed as far back as 30 years ago), drafted and edited the letter in a shared Google document, strategized how to sufficiently include the voices of the artists who felt they had been infringed upon, and designed a media plan ensuring the letter would find the largest audience possible.
“It was divine,” Brandon said of the way the group of strangers gelled instantly in writing the letter. “It felt like magic.”
By July, museum staffs across the country had written nearly a dozen letters decrying racist practices, including at the Palm Springs Art Museum, the Jewish Museum in New York, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and a New York consortium representing the Whitney, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and others. The letters called for a host of solutions, from the resignation of leadership and collaboration with outside consultants on racial equity to more equitable hiring practices.
In a statement on its website, SFMOMA acknowledged “longstanding inequities at the museum,” its role in censoring Brandon, and laid out plans to release a “specific, measurable, time-bound” diversity and inclusion plan on its website by December.
Since being called out by the open letters from No Neutral Alliance and XSFMOMA—a multiracial group of current and former employees who also penned a letter decrying racism at the museum—at least four SFMOMA employees have left.
Nan Keeton, the museum’s deputy director of external relations resigned on July 2 for her role in erasing Brandon’s comments. A little more than one week later, Gary Garrels, the museum’s chief curator (and one of the most prominent curators in the country) also resigned after an XSFMOMA petition calling for his ouster was published on Instagram.
And while some museums, like SFMOMA, have seen the resignations of top officials, the authors of many of the letters say there have not been enough good faith steps made toward changing a system of impropriety in the weeks since their outcries became public. Brandon, Olagbaju, and West say any efforts by SFMOMA that do not include the resignation of the museum’s director, Neal Benezra, cannot be taken as meaningful. “You would just be inviting people to a burning house,” West says.
VMFA Reform says they are still waiting for the museum to do “the bare minimum” and acknowledge its issues of racism and harassment publicly. In New Orleans, Woods and Williams are still waiting for a response from the museum’s board of directors—let alone a chance to meet with them.
“We are not looking for incremental change or change to happen over time,” Williams says. “We are talking about today. We are demanding radical change and we are demanding it now.”
Reposted from ABC17 News
A driver crashed into a fire hydrant Wednesday in a parking lot at the San Diego Air and Space Museum in Balboa Park, causing water to gush into the air for nearly an hour and flooding the basement of the museum.
The crash happened at about 10:40 a.m. near the museum at 2001 Pan American Plaza. Firefighters were in the area training when they heard the vehicle crash into the hydrant, shearing off the top of it in the process, San Diego Fire Department Capt. Tuan Dinh told OnScene.TV.
Crews were able to mitigate some of the flooding, but were unable to shut off the water from the hydrant for about 50 minutes, Dinh said.
Jim Kidrick, president and CEO of the museum, who was at the scene Wednesday, said water flooded the museum’s restoration room in its basement. The area contains a number of historic planes and other items of significance, he said.
“It’s not good,” Kidrick said. “It’s going to be hard to tell, but it’s quite deep in there right now.”
The museum’s top priority now is to get the water removed and keep mold from forming, said David Neville, the museum’s director marketing and communications.
The extent of the damage is not yet known, he said.
But Neville noted the museum has experience with flooding in its basement from heavy rain. Officials previously had moved some basement items off the ground — but that still won’t keep water from flooding its climate-controlled rooms storing archives and artifacts, he said.
Neville said the museum in the past has asked the city to construct a small dam near its driveway to prevent flooding, which hasn’t yet happened.
Reposted from The Art Newspaper
A new survey of more than 750 museum directors in the US has confirmed that one out of three institutions may shut down permanently as a result of financial troubles related to the coronavirus pandemic, the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) reported today.
The survey data, collected throughout the month of June, verifies early projections of the economic damage wrought by the shutdowns of thousands of museums across the country since March to limit contagion and by the loss of aid from donors and governments.
The survey found that 33% of museum directors believed there was a “significant risk” of closing permanently or that they “didn’t know” if they would survive the economic crisis.
The closures obliterated ticket, gift-shop, event-rental and other income on which their institutions depend, and after reopening museums are expected to draw far fewer visitors than they did before the pandemic.
“Museum revenue disappeared overnight when the pandemic closed all cultural institutions, and sadly, many will never recover,” says Laura Lott, the president and chief executive of the museum alliance. “Even with a partial reopening in the coming months, costs will outweigh revenue and there is no financial safety net for many museums.”
She adds: “The permanent closure of 12,000 museums will be devastating for communities, economies, education systems and our cultural history.”
The data showed that 87% of museums have 12 months or less remaining in their operating reserves, and that 56% have enough to operate for less than six months. Around 64% of directors predicted reductions in education, programming or other services to the public due to significant budget cuts.
A total of 37% of respondents expected to lose 21 to 40% of their operating income this year, while 30% expected to lose up to 20%, 22% expected to lose 41 to 60% and 10% expected to lose 61 to 80%.
The survey drew on a broad cross section of museums. Of the institutions surveyed, 31% were history museums or historical societies, 20% were art museums and 12% were historic houses or historic sites. Children’s, science and technology, natural history and other categories like aboretums, zoos, aquariums and specialised museums made up the remainder.
The largest share of the respondents, 17%, had operating expenses of $1m to $3m, followed by 14% with $500,001 to $1m, 14% with $100,001 to $250,000 and 13% with $3m to $10m.
Lott says that the museums at greatest risk include children’s museums and science centers, 40 to 50 percent of which are unsure whether they can survive. “They’re very reliant on ticket income and very tactile,” which presents challenges for operating safely during the coronavirus pandemic, she notes. Midsize museums with operating budgets in the $5m to $10m range are in many cases at peril as well, she adds, because “they were trying to expand their profile and punching above their weight and operating on thin margins.”
The overwhelming majority of the museums had reopened or planned to do so by the end of July: 15% in May, 42% in June and 27% in July. Yet some openings have been reversed by the recent leap in coronavirus cases in states including Arizona, Texas, California and Florida, Lott notes: The Arizona Science Center in Phoenix, for example, closed again after the state experienced a surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalisations, she says.
The survey found that 56% of the museums had not furloughed or laid off any staff members. However, 26% had furloughed part-time employees, 16% had laid off part-time employees, 15% had furloughed full-timers and 11% had laid off full-timers. Altogether, 41% had reopened or foresaw reopening with reduced staff and another 10% said they were not sure they could maintain their staff numbers.
In a positive sign, the survey demonstrated how US museums have resolved to serve their constituencies online during their closures and community lockdowns. A total of 75% of museum directors reported that their institutions had provided educational resources to children, parents and teachers while they were closed, and 64% provided entertainment and other activities. Video lectures were provided by 60%, educational resources for college students were furnished by 54% and enhanced access to digitised collection resources were provided by 43%. “The bright spot is that museums leapt into action in March and found ways to deliver on their mission,” says Lott.
The survey could prove indispensable as the AAM lobbies for increased government aid to cultural institutions. The alliance points out that museums support 726,000 direct and indirect jobs and contribute $50bn a year to the US economy.
“For all of the wonderful things that they provide in terms of respite and inspiration and trustworthy information, they [also] are a major part of our economy,” Lott says, “and vital to people getting out into neighbourhoods” and spending.
Among other requests, the museum alliance is pressing Congress for an extension and expansion of Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loans, which have helped museums to fund salaries and benefits during the crisis; asking that it direct the Federal Reserve to quickly finalise a nonprofit lending mechanism that can accommodate mid-size nonprofits that were excluded from the PPP program; and to allocate $6bn in aid for museums that would go toward general operating support, helping to develop distance-learning content, and physical improvements to protect employees and visitors from the Covid-19 virus.
The survey was conducted by the New Hampshire polling firm Dynamic Benchmarking at no charge to the AAM.
Since states across the US began lifting lockdown restrictions in May, reopened museums have adapted by adding a number of health and safety measures.
Hand-sanitizing stations, mandatory face masks for staff and visitors, and social distancing guidelines, sometimes with one-way routes through galleries, are the new normal. A few institutions are even checking guests’ temperatures upon arrival.
Still, with outbreaks in many states intensifying, it appears that reopenings may have been premature—and they are forcing museums in new hot spots to consider closing once again.
We checked in with institutions in the new “big three” red zones of Texas, Florida, and California to see how museums there are faring.
Texas museums got the green light to open on May 1 and initially held back, opting for greater caution. But in the second half of the month, many museums across the state gradually resumed welcoming visitors.
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, led the pack in reopening to members on May 20 and to the public three days later, making it the first major institution nationwide to do so. The San Antonio Museum of Art followed suit on May 28 for the public. Today, open museums in Texas include San Antonio’s McNay Art Museum and Fort Worth’s Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Kimbell Art Museum, and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.
“Since reopening our doors in May, we’ve heard that the museum has offered a welcome escape during these uncertain times,” Émilie Dujour, the PR and digital communications manager of the San Antonio Museum of Art, told Artnet News in an email. “As long as we can continue to safely offer a means of comfort to our guests, we will remain open in service to our community.”
But the Texas coronavirus numbers over the past month tell a disturbing story. On June 15, the seven-day average for new confirmed cases was just over 2,000. By July 16, that number had ballooned to more than 10,926, and it set a new single-day record of 15,038 positive tests
For now, museums can remain open, but citizens are being encouraged to stay home and, if they do go out, are required to wear face masks in public (in counties with more than 20 cases).
At the Museum of Fine Arts, “we continue to carefully monitor the situation,” publicist Kathryn Jernigan told Artnet News in an email. “Should there be an incidence of transmission on our premises, or should the city advise that we reclose the museum’s facilities, we have procedures in place to do so.”
Closing again “is a possibility,” admitted Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth communications director Kendal Smith Lake in an email to Artnet News. But the institution doesn’t regret reopening: “I can’t look backward. We are a respite for the community and a good choice to get out to do something.”
In late April, Pérez Art Museum Miami announced that it would remain closed until September 1. At the time, it was the longest planned closure of any US institution. Now, two and a half months later, with Florida announcing the highest single-day record for number of positive tests in any state—it confirmed 15,300 new COVID-19 cases on July 12 alone—that date suddenly seems optimistic.
“I’m still hopeful—we’re more or less six weeks away,” museum director Franklin Sirmans told Artnet News last week.
For Floridians, the stay-at-home order expired May 4, allowing museums to reopen at a reduced capacity. About a month later, cases begin climbing steadily, from just 667 new cases on June 1 to a nationwide record of 15,300 new cases on July 12. In response, the state closed bars again on June 26, but museums are still permitted to welcome visitors.
Before the dramatic uptick in cases, the PAMM had been planning to host some outdoor programming beginning in mid-July. “That is on hold for now,” Sirmans said. “The last couple of weeks have been difficult as far as COVID goes in this state. We are doing everything we can to be as informed as possible, including convening a meeting every couple of weeks with all of our peers, which has been incredibly helpful.”
Just steps from the PAMM, the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science, which is in large part open-air, reopened on June 15. The Rubell Museum in Miami followed suit on July 1.
But other institutions—including the Bass in Miami Beach, the ICA Miami in the Design District, and Florida International University’s Wolfsonian-FIU, the Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum, and the Jewish Museum of Florida—have yet to announce plans to reopen.
“We’re all trying as cultural institutions to look out for each other as much as possible,” Sirmans said.
In California, to combat soaring numbers, Governor Gavin Newsom ordered museums in 19 counties, including the state’s disease epicenter of Los Angeles, to once again close their doors on July 1. An order banning all indoor business activities statewide—including museums—followed suit on July 13. The next day, new cases in the state topped 10,000 for the first time.
For some museums, the new order meant canceling pending plans to reopen. The Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach had been aiming for a members-only opening on July 8. Others, like the Hammer Museum at UCLA, were targeting a September reopening.
Only a few institutions had reopened their doors before the restrictions were reinstated. The Bowers Museum in Santa Ana and the Petersen Automotive Museum in LA both began welcoming the public on June 19. The Huntington Library, Art, Museum, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino opened its grounds to members on June 17 and to the public on July 1; the outdoor facilities remain open today.
The first museum in the state to resume welcoming visitors was the Laguna Art Museum on June 12 (the first date it was legally possible to do so).
“Our team had already been planning for reopening, so with guidelines we were ready to reopen with new protocols for health and safety,” Cody Lee, the museum’s director of communications, told Artnet News in an email. With timed ticketing and a strict cap on visitors, “attendance during the time in which the museum reopened was very limited.”
Closing anew is a disappointment, of course. The order to shut down came just three days after Laguna’s public opening of “Granville Redmond: The Eloquent Palette,” which already had its run cut short at its only other venue, the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento. It’s the largest-ever show dedicated to the deaf California landscape artist, and the first in more than 30 years.
And the reintroduced restrictions scuttled plans at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles to set up by-appointment visits beginning July 7. That means the exhibitions “Ann Greene Kelly” and “Ree Morton: The Plant That Heals May Also Poison” will no longer reopen at all.
Nevertheless, institutions recognize the importance of taking steps to combat the pandemic. “Though we had hoped to keep our doors open longer, the safety and well being of our visitors and staff remains our top priority, as it has throughout the COVID-19 crisis,” reads a statement on the Bowers Museum’s website, promising that the institution “will remain poised to reopen just as soon as it is once again deemed safe.”
Most of California’s major museums never publicized formal reopening plans, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art, the Broad, and the Getty Museum, all in LA, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Fine Arts Museums San Francisco, and the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.
And while most museums are back in action in Fort Worth, it’s a different story across much of the rest of Texas. The Contemporary Austin and the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin remain closed, as does the Menil Collection in Houston.
“The museum’s pandemic response plan ties our reopening to a sustained decrease in local COVID-19 hospitalizations,” Sarah Hobson, the Menil’s assistant director of communications told Artnet News in an email.
In numerous instances, institutions have also opted to push back planned reopenings.
“As much as we wanted to reopen, it didn’t make sense,” Elyse Gonzales, director of Ruby City in San Antonio, told Artnet News. “At this time, with so much still uncertain and frankly very worrisome about our health system’s ability to manage, it is best that we postpone until a moment when San Antonio is in less a precarious situation.”
The African American Museum in Dallas made the same decision. “We have actually had the ‘reopening dates’ and we have had to let all of them pass by because of the surge in the coronavirus in Dallas County,” W. Marvin Dulaney, the museum’s deputy director and COO, told Artnet News in an email. “We have done everything to open—put in place social distancing protocols, purchased masks, and added hand-sanitizer stations throughout our building.”
The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History canceled its planned July 9 reopening just a few days ahead of time. “We’re trying to wait out this peak,” Doug Roberts, the museum’s chief public engagement officer, told Artnet News. He’s visited the city’s neighboring art institutions and felt safe, but a science museum is a different story.
“With fine art, you can observe from a distance,” Roberts explained. “Our museum has all these hands-on activities. People come to play with things, interact with things, touch things, do little science projects—all of those things that make our museum special are impossible, or very difficult to do safely, during COVID.”
In Dallas, six downtown museums, including the Dallas Museum of Art, the Nasher Sculpture Center, and the Crow Museum of Asian Art, issued a joint statement on June 29 that they were not planning to reopen anytime soon.
“We’ve been working through many different and evolving reopening scenarios and timelines throughout the period we have been closed,” Jill Bernstein, director of communications at the Dallas Museum, told Artnet News in an email. “In light of the rising number of COVID-19 cases in our city and state and how quickly the situation is changing locally, we are continuing to monitor developments right now and will confirm a re-opening timeline as soon as we determine we can do so responsibly.”
Dallas institutions are communicating regularly, Nasher director Jeremy Strick told Artnet News in an email. The individual museums may have slightly different timelines, but they agree on the basics: “the sooner we see significant improvement in public health, the sooner we can resume fully normal operation.”
After weeks of upheaval over its handling of accusations of racism from former employees, which resulted in the resignations of five senior staff members including its chief curator of painting and sculpture, Gary Garrels, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art announced a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Plan to be completed by December.
The museum’s troubles started on 30 May, when it responded to nationwide protests over brutality against African Americans, including the police killing of George Floyd, with a post on its Instagram account featuring Glenn Ligon’s work We’re Black and Strong (I). Taylor Brandon, an African American woman who formerly worked at the museum, slammed the post as hypocritical, calling the response a “cop-out” when some in the top ranks were “profiteers of racism”. Her comment was deleted, leading to an uproar, with at least two organizations—No Neutral Alliance (NNA) and xSFMOMA—calling for a revamp of the museum’s hiring, collecting, and programming policies, and for the museum’s director Neal Benezra to step down.
Benezra’s public apology received even more flak. Correspondence posted online by NNA shows the director attempted to meet with Brandon and the organization in June, but the museum could not meet preliminary demands. These included and “ethnic/racial percentage breakdown of current employees and work in the collection” and a consultancy fee for Brandon and her group.
Since then, five senior staff members have departed or are on their way out—the most recent is its chief curator of painting and sculpture, Gary Garrels, who was denounced by in-house staff for making what they saw as racist remarks. After a presentation about new acquisitions by artists of color and women, he reportedly said: “Don’t worry, we will definitely still continue to collect white artists.” And in a recent staff meeting, he said that to avoid collecting the art of white men would be “reverse discrimination”. Garrels apologised for his comments and resigned last week; he is due to leave the museum on 31 July.
Already gone are Nan Keeton, the deputy director in charge of external relations, who defended the deletion of Brandon’s comment during a staff meeting; Marisa Robisch, the director of human resources; Cindi Hubbard, recruitment and staffing manager; and Ann von Germeten, chief marketing and communications officer.
The recent DEI declaration was crafted after a series of in-house meetings, some apparently with the entire staff. Admitting “longstanding inequities at the museum,” the document sets out what SFMOMA will be doing to remedy that. Some items are already in place, such as two interns in art history and curatorial studies from a consortium of Black colleges. The institution will also be hiring a Director of Employee Experience and Internal Communication and a Director of Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging, and initiating “anti-racist and implicit bias training” for all staff.
SFMOMA is also considering how to carry through “a breakdown of the racial and gender diversity of our staff, trustees, and collection”. While a tally of the staff and trustee members might be straightforward, the museum has more than 50,000 objects in its collection, which it estimates will take two people six months to study.
Although the re-opening of New York’s museums remains weeks away, other art institutions in the northeastern US are beginning to allow the public in after months of lockdown, with the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass Moca) leading the way on 12 July. Located in the rural Berkshires region and housed in a sprawling former factory, the museum is well suited to social distancing, but challenges remain.
Over the weekend, the museum welcomed roughly 1,000 visitors, which represents about half of the usual footfall this time of year under normal circumstances, according to its director Joseph Thompson. “Even though we have about seven acres of exhibition space, as well as that much outdoor space, we have to calculate entry based on the size of our lobby, to prevent queuing and congestion,” he says. That means the museum can only admit 75 people every 30 minutes in order to stay in compliance with the state’s rule of eight people per 1,000 sq. ft to maintain social distancing. Masks and hand sanitizer are, of course, kept in ample supply for visitors, who must book their entry time in advance.
Around 70% of Mass Moca’s annual revenue comes from earned income generated through ticket sales, and the bulk of that revolves around live events and musical performances, which remain on hiatus for the next six months to a year depending on the advice of the state and federal governments. “We’re looking at doing ‘micro’ events for 100 people in our venues that can hold up to 4,000 people,” Thompson explains. “That’s a significant loss, so there a lot of line items getting cut here. We’ve had a successful round of fundraising in light of the pandemic, but we will need to do another round if we want to stay open for the winter.”
A popular tourist destination in the summer, the state’s visitor economy was on track to push past a billion dollars in direct and indirect spending in 2020 before the pandemic hit. But a Massachusetts Cultural Council survey found the Commonwealth's nonprofit cultural organizations lost more than $55.7m in March. State Representative John Barrett co-filed two bills requesting $75m in Covid-19 hardship grants from the government to support the struggling sector but, even so, the economy slowed to a halt and unemployment in the Berkshires reached 28% in May as virus cases dwindled to a handful.
Mass MOCA laid off 122 of its 165 staff members in April due to lost revenue. But re-opening has brought a lot of those jobs back. “We’re now back to about 75%-80% employment, but I think that’s where we’ll unfortunately have to stay for a while,” Thompson says. He adds that the museum is currently looking at ways of retooling its business model to use its facilities for more behind-the-scenes event support, production and artist residencies in order to increase revenue and bring back more staff members.
Some of the exhibitions also had to be rethought and updated in light of re-opening into what is a vastly changed world from March. Blane de St Croix’s large-scale exhibition of specially commissioned new works addressing the scale of climate change, How to Move a Landscape, the opening of which was delayed from 23 May until now, is accompanied by wall text that positions global warming as an overarching emergency amid many other crises currently unfolding, including the pandemic and the systemic racism highlighted by recent Black Lives Matter protests.
Other shows have taken on new meaning in light of recent events all on their own. A new installation by the Crow Nation artist Wendy Red Star in the museum’s free-to-enter Kidspace provides a valuable lesson for adults and children alike on Native land rights and broken treaties with the US government just as the Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling. The decision upholds a long-ignored 1866 treaty the Creek Nation signed with the US, which recognizes much of Oklahoma as sovereign tribal land. And Ledelle Moe’s massive, felled sculptures peppering the large Building 5 of the museum in her exhibition When (until September) recall the many Confederate and colonial monuments that have been dismantled amid anti-racism upheaval in the US and the UK in the last month.
Museums cannot just sit idle while they have been closed, Thompson says, adding that culturally speaking, “things have taken on a new gravity”.
At the nearby Clark Art Institute, re-opening over the weekend also went smoothly once again helped by ample acreage, though the storied permanent collection remains unchanged. The museum has also capped visitors at 25% of the building's capacity — an undershot of the 40% permissible under state's guidelines.
The Clark’s 140-acre bucolic grounds will also be the site of a contemporary group show featuring commissioned installations by artists such as Jennie C. Jones, Eva LeWitt and Haegue Yang. The show, planned before the pandemic, marks the first outdoor exhibition in institution’s history and could not be timelier given that fresh air is a friend when it comes to controlling the virus. Originally due to open this summer, production of many of the works has been delayed due to Covid-19, so instead it will open in September. Analia Saban’s Teaching a Cow How to Draw, however, has already been installed. The work takes the form of a fence that separates the museum campus from the paddock where the local cows roam, the rails of which illustrate drawing concepts like two-point perspective and the rule of thirds.
The opening of the Norman Rockwell Museum, also in Western Massachusetts, on Sunday morning was a more crowded experience despite timed entry, perhaps due to its smaller size or the popularity of the American illustrator's work. Visitors wore masks, but many galleries had up to six or seven people at a time when the max capacity to allow for social distancing was just four.
Reposted from the New York Times
Whitney Donhauser, the director of the Museum of the City of New York, had hoped that, come next Thursday, the museum’s halls would play host to its first masked, socially distanced visitors.
Not so fast, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Friday. Mr. Cuomo said that when New York City enters Phase 4 of its reopening plan on Monday, indoor cultural attractions, malls and indoor dining will not reopen yet.
“We’re not going to have any indoor activity in malls or cultural institutions,” Mr. Cuomo said on a conference call. “We’ll continue to monitor that situation, and when the facts change, we will let you know.” He added that he was looking at the potential of a second wave — “a man-made wave” with the potential to arrive by plane, car and train from the West and the South, where Covid-19 cases are increasing.
Zoos and botanical gardens will be allowed to reopen at 33 percent capacity. Four city zoos plan to reopen to the public July 24 at limited capacity, with masks required for all visitors over age 3.
The New York Botanical Garden has announced plans to reopen on July 28 with visitors required to reserve timed-entry tickets in advance.
Monday had been the earliest date that cultural venues could potentially have reopened, but most of the city’s museums had adopted a wait-and-see approach, with a few exceptions.
The Museum of the City of New York had announced plans to reopen July 23. Fotografiska, a photography museum in the Flatiron district that opened last December, only to close its doors in mid-March, had initially planned for July 29, with timed-entry admission in half-hour increments and an overall capacity of 25 percent. But the museum announced Thursday, even before the governor’s announcement on Friday, that it would be postponed.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced weeks ago that it would reopen Aug. 29, and it remains to be seen whether the virus situation in the city will remain stable enough for cultural attractions to reopen by that date. “Embedded in our announcement is that it is merely a plan, which of course is still subject to state and city approval — and this week’s public health developments underline exactly why that is the case,” said Kenneth Weine, chief spokesman for the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Many institutions, like the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, have not publicly announced their reopening plans.
Ms. Donhauser said in an interview on Thursday that while she supports the governor’s decision, the museum feels confident it can reopen while keeping visitors safe. She said the museum’s small size and simple layout make it easy for visitors to navigate with social distancing. “We’re ready to go as soon as the governor tells us we can,” she said.
Many museums are already planning measures to protect visitors, once they are allowed to return. The Museum of the City of New York will use a timed ticketing system and limit visitors to 25 percent of its capacity. Plexiglass barriers will separate cashiers from visitors, and touch-screen experiences will be temporarily closed.
The Met has said it will require masks and will also cap visitors at a quarter of the museum’s capacity. The New-York Historical Society, which is now planning on a Sept. 11 reopening, will also require masks for anyone over age 2, provide hand sanitizer stations and conduct temperature checks for all staff and visitors.
In Los Angeles, some museums opened their doors in mid-June, only to close them earlier this month after an order from Gov. Gavin Newsom of California when coronavirus cases surged in the state. Several Texas museums, including the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum and the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, pushed back reopening plans after a similar spike in cases in Dallas County.
New York City is the only region that has not yet entered Phase 4 of Mr. Cuomo’s reopening plan. Regions outside the city began entering Phase 4 in late June.
Mayor Bill de Blasio had expressed similar concerns Thursday about reopening indoor spaces too soon.
“The outdoor elements I feel good about and confident about so long as we’re clear about the standards and enforcement,” Mr. de Blasio said. “The indoor is causing me pause.”
“There can’t be a slippery slope there,” the mayor continued. “Indoor is the challenge and we have to be really tight about it. I think there are substantial elements of Phase 4 that can move ahead. Others, we have to be very careful about and deliberate about.”
Reposted from Museums and Heritage
A collaboration between arts organisation Metal and artist Eloise Moody has yielded a new digital project designed to give the public a unique tour of six UK museums and galleries.
Each episode of The Caretakers, a week-long series of behind-the-scenes explorations, will focus on one object at an institution – selected by a member of the security or maintenance teams.
The project is designed to reconnect the public with items they have been deprived of during lockdown while also giving a voice to workers whose knowledge of museum collections and cultural buildings often goes unheard.
Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, Kettle’s Yard, Museum of London, Royal Museums Greenwich, Pitt Rivers Museum and Southend Museums are the six venues chosen to participate in the project led by Metal, an Arts Council funded organisation with bases in Liverpool, Peterborough and Southend.
“One of Metal’s chief aims is to support artists in strengthening their practice and amplifying their voices. The Caretakers project, conceived by artist Eloise Moody, is a powerful opportunity to amplify those marginalised voices working in the cultural sector in a beautiful and intriguing way at a moment in history that is reframing all our thinking,” explains Andrea Cunningham, Assistant Director at Metal Southend.
As a third wave of the novel coronavirus sweeps across Hong Kong, China’s special administrative region has instituted its strictest measures yet for combatting the spread of disease, including once again shutting down the city’s museums.
The government first made the decision to shutter museums in late January, during the early days of the pandemic. At the time, there were only eight confirmed COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong, six of which originated in mainland China, where the outbreak began.
Over the past week, there have been 253 confirmed cases, including 182 local infections, with a record 52 new cases on Monday, according to the South China Morning Post. There have been a total of 1,521 cases in Hong Kong, and over 13 million known cases worldwide.
Hong Kong’s Leisure and Cultural Services Department issued a statement announcing the closures, saying that “the leisure and cultural venues/facilities reopened earlier will be temporarily closed starting from July 15.”
Affected institutions include the Hong Kong Museum of Art, the HK Visual Arts Centre, and the University Museum and Art Gallery at the University of Hong Kong. Non-government institutions are following suit.
The West Kowloon Cultural District is closing the M+ Pavilion, where “Shirley Tse: Stakes and Holders” was scheduled to be on view through October 4, and the Liang Yi Museum is also shutting down.
The new restrictions also include mandatory face masks on public transportation and limiting restaurants to take out after 6 p.m. Prior to the current spike, the government had lifted restrictions on parties of more than eight at restaurants and permitted gatherings for up to 50 people. Now, they are limited again to four people, as was the case back in March.
This is the second time that Hong Kong has been forced to quell a new rise in case counts. The city eased restrictions in March and reopened museums on the 11th of that month—until the number of cases suddenly doubled from 157 to 317, and institutions closed again.
Art Basel Hong Kong, which was scheduled to take place this past March 19 to 21, was canceled in February.
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