Faced with intense scrutiny and threats of lowered budgets if they don’t comply, museums are finally addressing their diversity issues. Mainstream museums across the country have left out the voices of people of color from their top executive positions all the way to the art they hang on their walls despite the POC affinity for high art.
Jay Z performed his entire Magna Carta… Holy Grail album in an art exhibit space. He debuted the album art inside of the Salisbury Cathedral which is home to one of only four original 1215 Magna Carta documents. The album cover itself is the piece Alpheus and Arethusa by Battista di Domenico Lorenzi. And for his most recent album, The Carters, with his wife Beyoncé, the two are pictured inside of The Louvre in Paris and even shot the music video for the lead single “APES**T” there as well.
The list of other hip hop and R&B artists that reference high art in their music is extensive. So where’s the love?
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation conducted a national study in 2015 that showed only 16% of leadership in art museums were people of color even though 38% of America’s population identifies as such. Numbers were even worse amongst curators, educators, and conservators as the report showed that only 4% of those positions where held by African-Americans and 3% were held by those of Hispanic descent. This lead to Mellon’s executive vice president Mariët Westermann to deem it the “worse” he’s seen in almost any sector.
Museums are now stepping up and answering the call, teaming up with mentoring programs and colleges across the country to raise its diversity numbers. Progress is a slow process but nevertheless, we persist.