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  • June 30, 2020 3:31 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from the American Alliance of Museums (AAM)

    In the midst of a pandemic that has brought an incredible amount of pain and suffering to so many of us, I know there’s a lot on your plate as a leader, and you are being pulled in multiple directions. However, it is critical that you realize we are witnessing, in real time, the tale of two Americas.

    While every one of us is trying to stay safe and healthy, we’ve seen the disproportionate toll that COVID-19 has taken on communities of color, and specifically on the Black community. This has been coupled with a string of recent racist acts of violence, including murder, against Black people in the United States at the hands of white people and police. Ahmaud Arbery was hunted down, shot, and killed in Georgia; Breonna Taylor was shot in her bed in Kentucky; Christian Cooper was harassed in Central Park; and George Floyd was violently murdered by the force of a policeman while screaming that he could not breathe. In just the last few days, two names have been added to this list: Tony McDade and David McAtee. And these are only the incidents of harassment and death that have made the news. We know there are countless other incidents against people of color in this country daily that go unpublicized.

    As we bear witness to protests across the country in the name of justice, equity, and our shared humanity, every person and organization must decide how to respond. Those of us with experience in the DEAI space often find ourselves working with leaders and organizations that describe themselves as committed to equity and inclusion, but regularly remain silent on timely issues that really matter. This inaction speaks volumes to how much further we have to go. It is time to truly recommit to DEAI and do better. Here are some steps you can take, as a museum leader, to do so.

    Check in with your staff members of color

    Just as you might check in with a colleague after a family member passed, check in with people of color in your museum about how they’re doing. For many of us, the murder of any unarmed person of color can feel like it was our own, because we know that it could have just as easily been us, a brother, a father, a mother, a sister, or a friend. Consider this statistic: Black men have a 1 in 1,000 chance of being killed by police. That is shattering. For the Black community, every time an unarmed Black person is killed, it adds to a collective trauma that feels like watching yourself murdered repetitively on national television. You may not understand this phenomenon, but you need to accept it as valid and true.

    I’ve heard from numerous people of color who work in museums and nonprofits with a stated commitment to centering equity and unlearning white supremacy culture, yet hear nothing from leadership, or even colleagues, when these tragedies occur. This is distressing. DEAI work cannot be sustained without supportive, authentic work relationships.

    Acting like nothing is happening is putting your comfort over our humanity. Here are a few ways you can check in with your staff:

    1. Accept that, while these conversations may be uncomfortable for you, you need to become comfortable with being uncomfortable.
    2. Check in with your staff members of color personally. Send them a note, call, or text. Let them know that you are there to support them for when they want and need support. They are grieving and processing; make sure you allow space for them to express and receive what they need as an individual.
    3. Let staff members know what work-sanctioned resources are available. Do you offer counseling services, or do your health benefits include coverage for counseling? Remind staff members that needing personal or mental health time is critical self-care practice and a valid reason to take a day off.
    4. Create space for staff of color to process without white people present. Affinity space is important at this moment.

    Ask your staff members of color what they need

    Beyond just checking in about how people feel, you should start a conversation about what they need. This can vary from person to person: your employees are not impacted by events in the same way. Black people are dying from the pandemic at a higher rate because of pre-existing conditions, lack of health insurance, a lack of access to proper care, and because social distancing is a privilege that people experiencing homelessness cannot afford. Now, in this devastating time, this reality is compounded with the fact that Black people are also dying because white police are harassing and killing them while jogging, bird watching, or enjoying other basic public rights.

    A few days ago, I was on seven Zoom meetings, four of which included white folks and three which were attended only by people of color. The former meetings did not even mention current events, while each of the latter included check-ins to ask how we were all doing, share our thoughts and emotions, and show support for each other as best we could. The stark contrast between these meetings really shook me. I implore you: take the time to check in with your staff members of color. We are filled with pain, rage, sadness, and many combinations of these and other emotions. Checking in to learn about what we’re experiencing and what we need is not a big ask.

    Consider making an internal statement

    Like other organizations, museums often make public statements when they are being impacted by timely events, such as the current pandemic. The recent tragic murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, David McAtee, and George Floyd may be a perfect example of when a museum might consider a public statement about their commitment to equity. I understand, however, that may not be your case. As a museum leader, I know you have multiple responsibilities, multiple constituencies, and multiple points of view that you need to take into account when making decisions about public statements.

    In the meantime, a good start is to make an internal statement. This statement does not have to be long, but it does need to acknowledge and address what is happening around the murder of Black people, and it needs to reaffirm your specific commitment to doing the much-needed equity work within your own museum.

    Do not consider making a public statement without making an internal one first. In our experience, organizations have often released public statements about current events without addressing the issues internally with staff, leading to many staff members of color feeling oppressed within their own organizations. Your museum’s public commitment to DEAI must align with its internal one.

    These are the times in which you and your museum’s commitments to DEAI will be put to test. As a museum leader, you will need to make the decisions that authentically showcase this commitment, express empathy, and honor your staff members of color’s experiences.

    See Original Post

  • June 30, 2020 3:27 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from The Atlantic

    The debate over what should be done with controversial or offensive statues—whether they be of Edward Colston, the 17th-century British slave trader; Belgium’s King Leopold II, whose brutal reign led to the deaths of millions of Congolese; or Robert E. Lee, the Confederate army commander—largely centers on competing narratives between those who argue that getting rid of these statues is tantamount to erasing history and those who say that far from representing history, these monuments idolize the role of those they depict.

    While some have suggested placing these statues in a museum or leaving them to deteriorate naturally, I propose another way: a statue of limitations, where towns and cities would hold a mass review of their monuments, say every 50 years. At that point, citizens would be tasked with deciding whether to maintain the memorials as they are, reimagine them, or remove them from the public square for good. These reviews, led by local authorities or citizens’ assemblies, would democratize the debate around these civic symbols and, perhaps most crucially, force communities to engage with the history and values they represent.

    This isn’t a simple solution. For one thing, it would undoubtedly require plenty of study and deliberation, which is more than can be said for the processes that led to many of these statues being erected in the first place. “It’s not like some democratic assembly or a panel of historians decides to do these things,” Christopher Phelps, a historian and associate professor of American studies at the University of Nottingham in Britain, told me. “It’s usually the people who have great power and wealth deciding to honor the kind of past or kind of society they want.”

    Take the Colston statue in Bristol, England, for example. The monument was erected in 1895, more than a century and a half after its likeness’s death, in a desperate bid by the city’s business and political elites to quell radical stirrings among the lower classes. Colston, whose philanthropy helped build the port city, seemed to be an ideal symbol of civic unity, even if the source of his wealth was not. A similar rationale informed the construction of statues of King Leopold II across Belgium—a process that occurred decades after the monarch’s death at the behest of his successor and nephew, Albert I, who sought to recast his uncle as a benevolent king. This reframing of history also applied to the building of Confederate monuments in the United States, the large majority of which were put up not during the Civil War, but decades after the South’s defeat. Confederate monuments “are not representations of Confederate life or the South or American history,” Phelps said, “but are a representation of the way people in the early 20th century tried to justify that past and reconcile it with national unity.”

    Democratizing the process by which statues are erected, or reconsidered, could go a long way in ensuring that today’s statues are a fair representation of this century, rather than simply a relic of the past. It would also force communities to grapple with the history attached to these monuments, which, in turn, would help dispel the notion that statues were put up as an accurate representation of that history. As Claudine van Hensbergen, an associate professor at Britain’s Northumbria University who studies public statues from the 17th and 18th centuries, told me, “Statues are not history … They are symbols.”

    This isn’t to say that the individuals depicted in statues ought to be perfect. While not every historical figure is deserving of being revered in the public realm, those who are aren’t necessarily without flaws. This reality has been at the crux of the debate in Britain over whether a statue of former Prime Minister Winston Churchill, which was recently defaced with graffiti during an anti-racism protest, should also be targeted for removal. Though Churchill is widely respected for his stewardship of the country and his thwarting of Nazism during the Second World War, he was also an avowed imperialist acknowledged to have espoused racist views.

    Here, too, a formalized process by which communities debate and discuss the merits of a statue would help: Giving people the space to weigh the pros and cons would combat the simplistic view that historical figures are either heroes or villains. It would also provide communities with the space to discuss a number of approaches. Some could opt to install supplemental plaques to contextualize certain memorials, as was done with Confederate statues in Georgia. Others could choose to transfer the statue in question to a museum, as is planned for the statues of Colston and a Leopold II statue that was recently removed by Belgian authorities in Antwerp. Enterprising communities could even choose to reimagine statues altogether, as has been suggested by the graffiti artist Banksy, who sketched a remade Colston memorial that maintains the original statue while also commemorating the anti-racism protesters who earlier this month pulled it down into the Bristol harbor.

    Logistically, of course, making any changes to, or removing, statues is more complicated. Not all statues are erected on public land, or by public authorities—the University of Oxford’s recent decision to remove a statue of Cecil Rhodes, whose imperialist legacy made him the target of student protest, would, for example, require coordination with local authorities as it is the equivalent of a historic landmark. (The leader of the Oxford city council has publicly backed the statue’s removal.) “It’s a lot easier to put a statue up than it is to take one down,” van Hensbergen said.

    Still, a statue of limitations would aim to do more than simply provide answers for what to do with monuments of figures whose legacies have aged poorly. The concept rests on the notion that communities should periodically come together to reconsider who gets commemorated in the public square. Though this could mean removing monuments that no longer reflect the values of a society, it could also mean adding new ones that do—including more memorials to women, who make up less than a quarter of all statues in Britain and just 10 percent of statues in the United States.

    Perhaps more than anything, the debate would help remind communities what statues are for. “Good statues … should be provocative,” van Hensbergen said. “Great art is provocative. It makes us ask questions of ourselves.”

    See Original Post

  • June 30, 2020 11:59 AM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from Artnet News

    The Oakland Museum of California was born in the shadow of racial division and protest. We opened our doors in 1969 amid the demonstrations to free Huey Newton, founder of the Black Panther Party, who was on trial in the wake of a violent exchange with police. His trial took place across the street from the museum, at the Alameda County Courthouse.

    In this context, the museum’s founding director, Jim Holliday, attempted to form a community advisory committee amid calls to better incorporate community members into the project. He was fired for insubordination six weeks before the museum opened; other museum leadership resigned in protest of his ouster. 

    The commitment to equity, which is baked into our DNA, is also compelled by our location in one of the most diverse cities in the country, defined by a history of social justice and activism. Over the past decade, we have worked to live up to those values. We have diversified our board, our staff, and our audience, and have begun to measure the impact we are having on the well-being of our community beyond traditional measures of attendance or financial benchmarks, which tend to reinforce the way things have always been done. 

    At the same time, our external research—and, even more importantly, the internal reckoning we’ve confronted in recent weeks—have revealed how much further we have to go. I present some of the steps that we’ve taken with humility, acknowledging that we have many more steps to take collectively as a field and within our own organization as we work toward justice. 

    Inside Out

    We know, especially now, that a commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and access begins at home. Over the past several years, we have worked to increase the diversity of our staff and board, to develop tools for greater intercultural understanding, and to place engagement with our community at the core of our work. This involves not only setting benchmarks, but also making sure we are measuring the right things

    On the board level, we set a specific goal for people of color to comprise 40 percent of the members; we met that goal in 2016 and have sustained it since. Seven years ago, we established a community engagement committee to help design internal training specifically for trustees related to equity and inclusion and to champion our work with community partners. We are now one of 50 museums across the country participating in the American Alliance of Museums’ Facing Change initiative to increase board diversity, a two-year effort that involves training, the compilation of a diversity and equity plan, and the recruitment of at least two new trustees of color. 

    On the staff side, we restructured our entire organization in 2011 to place the visitor at the center and to dismantle some of the silos that typically exist in museums. We created new positions to serve as visitor advocates and established an evaluation department so that we could hold ourselves accountable. While introducing these functions into a museum may not seem significant, incorporating the perspective of visitors and community members into discussions about planning exhibitions and evaluating success has been transformational. We now launch most major projects with a convening that includes community members with lived experience in the topic to help us shape the content. And every major exhibition concludes with a full debriefing led by our head of evaluation so that team members can hear directly about visitors’ experiences. 

    We’ve also created new teams and initiatives to cultivate leadership at every level of the organization, including a paid internship program. Beginning in 2013, we put in place new processes for recruiting, hiring, and compensation designed to reduce bias and promote equity. For example, we created new job description templates for positions to eliminate barriers for hire, including education level, and developed a compensation structure that does not factor in degrees or tenure. We also implemented a rigorous hiring process that includes panel interviews for all staff openings, which aims to counterbalance individual biases.

    A commitment to equity must also extend beyond the staff. Last year, we began shifting our approach to investing in order to incorporate sustainable and responsible practices that align with our social impact priorities. While we have not yet formalized a new investment policy or divested in specific sectors, we have engaged the staff and board in discussions to consider how all our investments, including vendor relationships, support our mission. Our current context will surely influence these discussions.

    The journey to make equity and inclusion a central aspect of every person’s job—as well as a fundamental responsibility of governance—has taken years and significant commitment from every level of the organization. It’s also taken investment. This has sometimes required us to make difficult choices—such as the decision to focus less on technology and digital engagement in recent years. These are choices that, as with everything right now, we’re having to revisit as the museum remains closed to the public. And yet our sustained focus on equity positions us to move forward now with even deeper work around anti-racism. 

    Outside In

    This commitment is inextricably linked to our relationship to our community—ties that have been strong since the beginning, as the museum served as a department of the city of Oakland for most of its history. Since the 1970s, we have worked with advisory councils and volunteer groups to connect the museum to the particular needs of Oakland’s diverse communities. Two of our active committees today include our Dia de los Muertos Committee, which leads an annual community celebration now in its 26th year, and the Native Advisory Council, which provides expertise and guidance on issues related to Native collections, programming, and cultural practices. 

    Over the past few years, we have doubled down on this commitment. We have collaborated with community members in co-creating programming with deep local resonance, such as All Power to the People: Black Panthers at 50RESPECT: Hip-Hop Style and Wisdom, and Queer California: Untold Stories. Our Friday Nights at OMCA, a weekly festival of music, dance, food, and art-making, has been a game-changer for our institution, attracting some 200,000 people annually. Together, these programs have made OMCA much more than a museum. We are now seen as an indispensable community resource and a gathering place for all of Oakland and the East Bay region. 

    We’ve been able to measure our success because of the investment we’ve made in evaluation. Our highly local audience (90 percent from a 50-mile radius) is more diverse culturally (56 percent people of color in 2019 compared with 46 percent in 2017) and economically (58 percent are low and middle income) as well as younger (62 percent under 45 in 2019 versus 58 percent in 2017), with many more families attending with young children. These shifts make our audience a closer reflection of the local population of Alameda County, which comprises 60 percent people of color. 

    Over the past several years, we’ve also worked to identify our social impact—how successful we have been in building greater trust, understanding, and connection between people and communities. As of 2019, we’ve developed specific metrics to regularly measure (and share) our social cohesion outcomes. This examination has led to a fundamental change in how we define success. Attendance statistics, financial metrics, and audience demographics are the outputs and outcomes of our work, but we are now called to prioritize our impact—the real difference we are striving to make in the world. 

    So Now What?

    In many ways, our museum has been seen as a leader in the field of diversity, equity, inclusion, and access and is looked to for best practices in community engagement. But as with museums across the country, we now have to take stock like never before. Since our founding, we’ve been known as the “Museum of the People.” But like most museums, we have never fully realized the vision to be of, by, and for all of the people. 

    Last week, even as I was honored to speak to colleagues across the country about diversity and equity at our virtual American Alliance of Museums conference, I was also called upon by our staff to see, acknowledge, and be held accountable for the inequities in our own institution. These inequities include a lack of black people in key roles, particularly within the curatorial ranks. We’ve heard as well a call for greater transparency and participation by broader staff in decision-making, and respect for roles and expertise that have not been typically valued within museums. Beyond critiques of our institutional practices, I’ve listened to the pain, exhaustion, and despair of black people and people of color with whom I’ve long worked. And I’ve walked the streets of my city and seen murals that appear on the plywood boards that cover broken windows paying tribute to black lives lost and calls for reparation and justice. 

    As we move through quarantine, we’ve begun to consider how to reinvent our institution when we’re able to reopen our building. That reimagining has become a cry for action from the inside out and the outside in. 

    So, our journey continues. I know it will take every bit of training and learning and all the tools we’ve developed in recent years. But mostly I know it will require listening with self-awareness, taking a stand with compassion and courage, and reimagining what a museum of, by, and for the people can truly be. Black Lives Matter. Black Thoughts Matter. Black Stories Matter. 

    See Original Post

  • June 30, 2020 11:54 AM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from Artnet News

    Authorities have arrested six people in connection with the theft of a Banksy mural dedicated to victims of the 2015 Paris attacks. The work was recovered in a farmhouse in Italy, near the Adriatic coast, earlier this month.

    On a visit to Paris in 2018, Banksy installed the stenciled mural of a somber-looking woman with a veil on a steel door outside of the Bataclan theater to commemorate the 90 lives lost. It had been at large since last January, when hooded thieves removed the piece with an angle grinder.

    Now, six individuals have been placed in custody in connection with the crime, which caused widespread anger throughout France, while they await trial. Two have been put under investigation for organized theft and four others have been accused of concealing the theft. While the identities of the suspects have not been revealed, Euronews reports that the local French departments of Isère, Haute-Savoie, Var, Rhône, and Puy-de-Dôme were involved in the investigation.

    The work was in good condition when it was found by French and Italian police. The art-adorned metal had been stored in the attic of a farmhouse occupied by Chinese nationals who appeared unaware of the valuable artwork hiding in the uppermost floor.

    According to the Evening Standard, one of the French police officers who had intervened during the Bataclan theater attack was also on the scene when the door was rediscovered and “was overcome with emotion.”

    When the work was shown to the public this June after its recovery, the French embassy expressed its relief. “It belongs to the Bataclan,” said Christophe Cengig, a liaison of the French embassy, at the event. “It belongs to all of France, in a sense.” He added that the Bataclan theater owners “were thrilled, very happy” that the work had been recovered.

    This isn’t the only Banksy to be targeted by thieves. In May, an opportunistic thief in a hazmat suit was caught attempting to steal a Banksy work from a hospital in Southampton, UK, mere days after it was installed.

    See Original Post

  • June 30, 2020 11:49 AM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from Pinnacol Assurance

    For many Colorado businesses, now is the right time to update their hazard communication program to ensure compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Hazard Communication Standard, 29 CFR 1910.1200. 

    The standard requires employers with hazardous chemicals in their workplaces to label all containers, obtain safety data sheets (SDSs) and train exposed workers to handle the chemicals appropriately.

    The COVID-19 outbreak has prompted lots of businesses to purchase new, stronger chemicals to disinfect high-touch work surfaces, equipment and tools to prevent the spread of the virus. Businesses using these new products more frequently and for longer durations need to ensure they comply with the OSHA standard. 

    Companies could use the refresher. In fiscal year 2018, hazard communication ranked as OSHA’s second most frequently cited standard.

    Keep your employees safe by reviewing these tips and tools.  

    Tips for hazard communication

    Add any new cleaning chemicals used for coronavirus disinfection to your chemical inventory list. 

    Inform and train employees on the hazardous chemicals in their work area before their initial assignment and when new hazards are introduced.

    Train employees on the hazards of the new chemicals, appropriate protective measures, and where and how to obtain additional information. 

    Ensure that all containers of hazardous chemicals in the workplace are labeled. 

    Instruct your receiving department to review labels on incoming products to ensure all incoming containers of hazardous chemicals have labels that include the following information: 

    • Product identifier
    • Signal word
    • Pictograms
    • Hazard statements.
    • Precautionary statements
    • Name, address and phone number of the responsible party.

    Review the format of SDSs.

    Get the SDS for each new chemical and make all of them readily accessible to employees.

    Resources for hazard communication

    Want to know more about implementing or updating your hazard communication program? Try these tools: 

    • Consult Pinnacol’s hazard communication guide, including our sample hazard communication program
    • Learn more about the GloballyHarmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals.
    • Listen to the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates’ April 3rd webinar, which addressed hazard communication and COVID-19 cleaning. 
    • Review OSHA’s guidelines on preparing workplaces for coronavirus, including hazard communication rules.

    See Original Post

  • June 30, 2020 11:47 AM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from The Art Newspaper

    The autistic teenager who threw a six-year-old boy from the tenth-floor viewing platform at Tate Modern last summer has been given a life sentence and jailed for at least 15 years. Jonty Bravery picked up and threw a six-year-old boy at the Bankside gallery on 4 August 2019; the victim, a French tourist, suffered bleeding to the brain and fractures to his spine, legs and arms.

    In her summing up in court, judge Justice McGowan said: "I cannot emphasise too clearly that this is not a 15-year sentence. The sentence is detention for life. The minimum term is 15 years."

    Bravery, 18, who has a personality disorder, was charged with attempted murder after being arrested at Tate Modern; he admitted the charge at the Old Bailey in December. The court heard Bravery had approached a member of Tate Modern staff, saying: "I think I've murdered someone, I've just thrown someone off the balcony."

    Justice McGowan added: "You went to the viewing platform, looked around and spotted the victim and his family and went to the boy and threw him over the railing. The fear he must have experienced and the horror his parents felt are beyond imagination.” The judge added that Bravery may never be released.

    In a recording obtained by the BBC and the Daily Mail, Bravery told his care workers about a plan to kill someone late 2018 when he was in the care of Hammersmith & Fulham council. In the recording, he says: "In the next few months I've got it in my head I've got to kill somebody." Bravery has been held at Broadmoor Hospital since mid-October.

    See Original Post

  • June 23, 2020 3:37 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from AAM

    As of May 7, the Buffalo Bill Center of the West is officially reopened to visitors. The BBCW is a massive AAM-accredited facility located in rural Wyoming in the Yellowstone National Park gateway community of Cody, with a budget of around twelve million dollars. We employ around eighty year-round staff, with an upswell in the three months of summer season when 80 percent of our 170,000 annual guests typically make a visit to us.

    Knowing that many other museums have yet to reach this milestone, and may be wondering what reopening is like, I wanted to share what the experience has been like. While I am not a diarist, a diary format is the best way I can think to do that. Before I go on, I should say that we are all different both in the nature of our museums and our communities. My suggestions and timing reflect only my experiences and would need to be modified for anyone who might want to use them.

    Day 1

    We knew a closing was coming. While our town had a single case of COVID-19, fear was everywhere and the store shelves were empty. In the span of about twenty-four hours, the governor shut us down, along with other museums, rodeos, schools, and so on. Thankfully, we had a memo in the hopper to send to staff already vetted by outside counsel. I use our attorneys on all staff memos now regarding COVID-19, since I have found these memos have lives beyond our walls. We also had begun work to create signage that addresses our closing in as positive a way as we can. Big “CLOSED!” signs or yellow hazard tape on our playground is the stuff of bad social media postings. So, we opted for softer language noting that it was for the public and staff health that we closed. Messaging is truly important.

    Day 7

    Okay, so we have had to figure out a strategy for this. Talk about nailing Jell-O to a wall, as events change hourly! Our framework for survival is thus:

    • Focus on our donors, which in this case begins with our board and advisors. So, bi-weekly emails go from me to them all. Development starts making calls to everyone else, just to let them know we are concerned about them. Open the floodgates of email and phone calls!
    • Focus on our virtual presence. For us, this means figuring out how to excite cabin-fever-bound folks excited to come to Wyoming. (Interesting that our Google Analytics seems to show that the age of our web-visitors dropped significantly during this period.)
    • Get ready to reopen. We start stockpiling supplies and working on plans for sanitizing stations. Those cannot be built in a day, so it will take us some time. In the meantime, I embed the CDC guidelines in every communication we send.
    • Start the process of figuring out what we financially cut, since even with PPP, the impact is going to hurt. Insurance, equipment upgrades, and a host of other topics are on the block. Does a ten-year-old truck need full collision coverage?

    End of month one

    Cripes…talk about lonely at the top. The senior management team is alone working in the building, and despite the huge size of the structure, we see each other probably too much. We are watching every press conference with the governor together in our giant empty conference room. There are myriad opinions about how we should handle everything from previously approved vacation time to recoding the time clocks. The positive in this is that it does force us to make sure our processes and procedures are really tight. Making it up as we go is not the way!

    The board is remaining focused and upbeat, and checks are coming in from trustees who want to help. I am thankful, though, that our key trustees have lined up to support retaining all the staff. My messaging has been twofold about the staff: 1. We cannot gut our programs so that when we reopen we are unable to serve our audience. 2. Finding qualified replacements for staff in rural Wyoming, particularly for specialized jobs, is nearly impossible in many cases.

    Two weeks later

    Huzzah, so it looks like we may have a re-opening date. We had already begun meeting with the health officer and set up an internal working group to get us ready. Our strategy is easy. We want to not only meet but exceed both the requirements and the recommendations of the health department. So, we review the minimums and then get creative on how we can take that up a notch. As a result, the first and last thing visitors will see in our building is someone sanitizing. To my mind, public perceptions about cleanliness will be as important as anything we do. I call in extra cleaning staff. We spend hours on signage ensuring that we have clarity on our operations. The hard work has paid off, and in anticipation of an announcement from the governor, we put in place a seven-day countdown to get us ready to open.

    Staff is back!

    Well…I thought this would be a joyous day for everyone, but I sure misread that one! Most of the staff is happy to be back, and they have now disappeared into their offices. But for a small number, there is fear about the reopening, and even fury about being called back to the building. Their anger is manifesting in a campaign to pick holes in all our safety precautions, including suggesting that our cleaning and security staff should force visitors to wash their hands after using the bathroom, which seems impossible to enforce.

    Then I have a countermovement from another group of staff who find the sanitation concerns to be excessive, with some even making fun of those wearing masks. It got nasty very fast between the two sides, and I had to intervene and remind everyone that teasing and bullying are not part of our values.  My hope is that after we are open that emotions will calm down and we can focus on our guests.

    First day open!

    It has been a long week running up to this. I had the exterior of the building cleaned up so that we would look good if we had media coverage. Then the day came, and we had, drumroll please…all of about twenty-five people! In a normal year, we should have had five hundred on that day, but this is the first COVID-19-era opening for us. Still, those twenty-five not only paid to come in, but eight of them bought memberships and four of them bought raffle tickets. I saw a smattering of shopping bags leave with them as well. Half were local and half were tourists. Will their generosity hold?

    15 days open!

    So, the numbers are slow to rise. The reopening of the National Park has helped, for sure, but we are not tracking well. To date, we are down about ten thousand for the year, but that of course considers the eight weeks closed. Interesting that we are still selling memberships, raffle tickets, and having solid store sales. What is the story there? I think the folks who are coming in are cognizant of us being a charity and being open in tough times, and as a result they are supporting us. It is a little like giving an extra big tip to a server after seeing them for the first time in months.

    Lots of lessons learned here. For us, being back open to the public is central to our mission and existence. We don’t have the luxury of staying closed for protracted periods. Right now, our draft budget (July 1–June 30) has scenarios that all include lots of fundraising, and a few that contain staff reductions. I fear the latter more than anything. Having seen the effects of wanton cuts in a prior job, I know the destructive force of death by a thousand cuts. Being back open, I can at least fight to keep us intact.

    The Grateful Dead were right that this is a long, strange journey. While I’m not sure Jerry and the boys were anticipating COVID-19, I think it certainly applies to what we have been through. Like all of us, those strange days when this began will forever be etched on my memory. When my grandfather died in the 1970s, we found ration stamps from World War II in his wallet. I suspect that when many of us age out, they will find cloth masks in our pockets we’d been holding on to just in case.

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  • June 23, 2020 3:34 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from The Los Angeles Times

    Los Angeles County may have announced that museums can reopen as early as Friday, but of more than a dozen institutions responding to Times inquiries, not one said it was prepared to begin welcoming visitors so soon. Most won’t open for weeks, if not months. 

    Southern California museums are navigating complicated health and safety protocols while also seeing to the regular work of preparing new exhibitions, caring for art, managing employees and communicating with the public. 

    Many museums said they need time to carefully review and implement the county’s guidelines, which include limiting the number of people allowed on the premises, checking for COVID-19 symptoms such as coughing and fever, and instructing guests to use hand sanitizer and wear face coverings. Markers should be placed throughout exhibition spaces to promote social distancing, and footpaths should be arranged to promote one-way pedestrian flow, reducing crossflow. The guidelines call for more regular sanitization of frequently touched surfaces and a plan for gathering guest information for contact tracing in the event of an outbreak. 

    One recommendation — contactless online reservations with timed entry tickets — alone will pose a major technological and logistical challenge to institutions that don’t have such a system already in place.

    Among the museums that said Thursday they have not yet settled on a reopening date: the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Getty, which said it expects galleries to open on a phased basis, although no specific timeline has yet been made public. The Broad said it is aiming for midsummer, and the Skirball Cultural Center said it plans to remain closed at least through June 30.

    The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and its sister operation at the La Brea Tar Pits have targeted late summer, relying on timed tickets to help regulate the flow of visitors. The Norton Simon in Pasadena estimated reopening in late summer or early fall; the Palm Springs Art Museum, October or November. 

    In response to The Times query, Craft Contemporary (formerly called the Craft and Folk Art Museum) simply said it is going into planning mode this week. 

    Both of the University of Southern California’s museums, the USC Fisher Museum of Art on campus and the USC Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena, hope to open in tandem with the first day of fall semester, Aug. 17. But a spokeswoman cautioned, “Everything is dependent on the virus.”

    A spokeswoman for MOCA echoed that sentiment: “We are very mindfully and deliberately working through all the steps needed to protect our staff and our visitors. We need to take our time doing this, in order to do it right.”

    The Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens this week announced that it would reopen its sprawling gardens to the public on July 1, with a preview period for members beginning Wednesday. A spokeswoman said the San Marino institution plans to reopen the indoor galleries incrementally beginning in September.

    In Orange County, the Laguna Art Museum said it was reopening Friday with limited capacity and timed-entry reservations, among other protocols.

    The L.A. County checklist for museums includes five safety categories and more than 60 items that need to be managed to remain in compliance. But executing those protocols is particularly challenging when daily operations have been radically disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is responsible for nearly 70,000 cases and 2,800 deaths in L.A. County

    Exhibition schedules are in flux, and touring shows are dependent upon other institutions reopening on a patchwork schedule according to international, state or local mandates. Installing and staging new shows takes longer now that construction workers need to be social distanced. Vendors on which museums rely for online reservation systems and other services also have been hampered by the virus. 

    Elizabeth Merritt, vice president of strategic foresight and founding director of the Center for the Future of Museums at the American Alliance of Museums, wrote in an email that the top challenges facing museums looking to reopen include not just budgeting for, and training staff on, new sanitation and safety procedures, adding signage and installing hand-sanitation stations. It’s also gauging the public’s willingness to return. 

    The region’s smaller art galleries, which also were given the green light to open with restrictions, will have an easier time limiting the number of visitors but most remain cautious. Gabba Gallery said it plans to remain virtual through July. Gemini G.E.L. plans to reopen by appointment only. Chimento Contemporary is reopening Friday, but with limited hours. Jeffrey Deitch hopes to open around July 11, but Charlie James Gallery said it is leaning toward appointment-based visits through the end of the year.

    Two early test cases for the future of museum-going are Spain’s Guggenheim Bilbao, which reopened in early June, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, which reopened May 23. At both places, temperature checks are required for entry, masks must be worn at all times, restroom use is restricted to one person at a time, interactive displays are out and self-guided tours are in.

    Although the emerging requirements for museums seem rigorous, these institutions face far fewer challenges than performing arts venues like theaters and concert halls, where social distancing — of not just audience members but also artists — is proving particularly challenging, if not impossible. On Thursday the New York Philharmonic announced that the earliest it will reopen is early 2021.

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  • June 23, 2020 3:30 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from Artnet News

    A monument to Theodore Roosevelt that has stood outside New York’s American Museum of Natural History since 1940 will be removed, the museum announced Sunday, after weeks of protests targeting Confederate monuments and other symbols of America’s racist history.

    The bronze statue, situated on the steps of the museum, depicts the former New York state governor and US president on horseback with a Native American man in full headdress on one side and a bare-chested African man on the other. The work, by artist James Earle Fraser, was commissioned in 1925 as part of a larger initiative to honor Roosevelt, who was a naturalist and author of natural history works.

    The statue sits on city-owned property and, in a press release, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “The city supports the museum’s request. It is the right decision and the right time to remove this problematic statue.”

    That sentiment was echoed by Theodore Roosevelt IV, a great-grandson of the former president and a museum trustee, who said: “The world does not need statues, relics of another age, that reflect neither the values of the person they intend to honor nor the values of equality and justice. The composition of the Equestrian Statue does not reflect Theodore Roosevelt’s legacy. It is time to move the statue and move forward.”

    The decision to actually remove the monument was a long time coming. In 2017, following the deadly white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia, de Blasio convened the Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments, and Markers to address the future of divisive statues of Christopher Columbus, J. Marion Sims, and Roosevelt. In the end, the commission opted not to remove any of the works permanently. De Blasio said at the time, “Our approach will focus on adding detail and nuance to—instead of removing entirely—the representations of these histories.”

    In the wake of those instructions, the American Museum of Natural History mounted an exhibition called “Addressing the Statue” that included studies of the preparatory sketches, and a series of responses from academics about Roosevelt’s legacy. Notably, many of the historians who contributed thoughts acknowledged that while Roosevelt was considered a conservationist, the land he was so intent on caring for had been stolen from Native American peoples. In its press release, the museum noted the shortcomings of the exhibition: “we are proud of that work…but in the current moment, it is abundantly clear that this approach is not sufficient.”

    In recent years, many groups have actively opposed the statue, staging protests outside the museum. Since 2016, Decolonize This Place has led a march on Indigenous People’s Day culminating at the Roosevelt statue and shrouding it in a tarp. In October 2017, a group called the Monument Removal Brigade splashed red paint on its base, writing in a statement “Now the statue is bleeding. We did not make it bleed. It is bloody at its very foundation.” Though the incident was a self-described “act of applied art criticism,” it was decried by then city cultural affairs commissioner Tom Finkelpearl as vandalism.

    The future of the statue is unclear as yet, though the museum announced that its Hall of Biodiversity will be named for Roosevelt as a conciliatory measure. Over the past weeks, activists around the US have continued to rally for the removal of controversial statues, successfully toppling Confederate monuments in Raleigh and Los Angeles. NFL teams are also reckoning with statues honoring former team owners with racist pasts that are stationed outside stadiums in Minneapolis and Washington, DC.

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  • June 23, 2020 3:27 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from NEH

    The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) today announced $40.3 million in new CARES Act economic stabilization grants to support essential operations at more than 300 cultural institutions across the country. 

    NEH CARES grants, awarded across all 50 states and the District of Columbia, will allow the National World War II Museum in New Orleans to augment digital programming around its collections, will help the historic site of the Tulsa Race Massacre prepare a new exhibition and tours in preparation for the upcoming centennial, and will digitally document the history and daily life of Connecticut’s tribal communities in the early nineteenth century. 

    “Over the past few months we have witnessed tremendous financial distress at cultural organizations across the country, which have been compelled to furlough staff, cancel programs, and reduce operations to make up for revenue shortfalls caused by the pandemic,” said NEH Chairman Jon Parrish Peede. “NEH is pleased to provide $40 million to preserve thousands of jobs at museums, archives, historic sites, and colleges and universities that are vital to our nation’s cultural life and economy.” 

    In March, NEH received $75 million in supplemental grant funding through the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The agency has already distributed $30 million of that funding to the 56 state and jurisdictional humanities councils to support local cultural nonprofits and educational programming. Through the regranting of federal support, the councils reach an estimated annual audience of 137 million people. 

    For the highly competitive NEH CARES grant category, the Humanities Endowment received more than 2,300 eligible applications from cultural organizations requesting more than $370 million in funding for projects between June and December 2020. Approximately 14 percent of the applicants were funded.

    These 317 grants will allow cultural organizations to retain staff to preserve and curate humanities collections, advance humanities research, and maintain buildings and core operations. An NEH CARES grant to the American Civil War Museum in Richmond, Virginia, will provide continued employment for 25 staff members responsible for the museum’s public history and interpretation work. Another grant will retain cultural heritage experts at the Foundation for Advancement in Conservation to ensure the protection of the country’s humanities collections. Grants will also sustain publication of academic books by the Ohio State University Press and Gallaudet University Press. The National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri, will focus on the digitization and transcription of a collection of 10,000 pages of World War I letters, journals, and diaries. 

    NEH CARES grants will also enable organizations to prepare buildings, exhibitions, and programs for reopening. The National Willa Cather Center in Nebraska will use an NEH CARES grant to plan for a phased reopening of its historic sites by retraining staff who work closely with visitors, and creating outdoor interpretation spaces to support self-guided tours. Another grant will enable completion of a 3D digital model of Diego Rivera’s monumental 1940 Pan American Unity fresco to make the 74-foot work in San Francisco accessible to viewers across the globe. Additional grants will support staff positions at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill in Kentucky, and smartphone tours at the Enfield Shaker Museum in New Hampshire. 

    Several recipients will use their grants to shift in-person programs and institutional resources online to reach a wider public during the pandemic. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History will help fill gaps in remote learning through online summer seminars and digital programming for K–12 U.S. history educators. The American Writers Museum in Chicago will develop online exhibitions and curricular materials for the public, while Atlanta History Center will create a curriculum and virtual field trips for students in grades 3–12. Grants will provide for the expansion of Lakota language e-learning resources for teachers and schools in North Dakota and South Dakota, and will retain staff at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture to create an online version of its exhibition on the experiences of runaway slaves. 

    Other grantees, such as City Lore in New York City, will document the pandemic’s impact on American communities. Radio Diaries will use NEH funding to create a series of first-person narratives, and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s humanities center will work on a large oral history initiative documenting biomedical history and pandemic response since 1890.

    A complete list of all 317 new NEH CARES grants is available here. 

    A geographical breakdown of NEH CARES Act funding for the state and jurisdictional humanities councils is available here


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