Home Arts New organization wants to empower US museums to reallocate resources from objects to people

New organization wants to empower US museums to reallocate resources from objects to people

by godlove4241
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Three years after the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, which exposed systemic problems in American museums, what has really changed in the field of museums is up for debate. While institutions have pledged to do better, including embedding DEIA (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility) into their culture, these efforts can seem performative. Museum employees are increasingly form unions struggle for better working conditions, and staff diversification has been a “slow and uneven” process, according to a recent survey by the Mellon Foundation, with institutions continuing to face low retention rates. Additionally, the 2022 Burns Halperin Report find that US museums rely heavily on donors to shape their collections, which has hindered progress in diversifying collections.

A new initiative from the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, hopes to help art museums fully commit to their new missions by conducting research that “is specifically aimed at stimulating innovation.” Appointed Remusée, the organization will assess what museums spend on the public versus what they spend on objects, with the aim of encouraging institutions to reallocate resources more consistently with their missions. By targeting financial sustainability, he hopes to steer institutional investments towards more people-centred issues, from DEIA to climate change.

“Most museums have mission statements that aim to change lives, serve and engage the public in art, but incentives, resources and policies still tend to be very heavily weighted by the larger missions. legacy and object-based inheritance,” says Stephen Reily. , founding director of the Remuseum and former director of the Speed ​​Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky. “If they break some of these old habits, are they ready to invest as much money in the public as objects? »

Stephen Reily, founding director of the Remuseum Photo: Ryan Armbrust – Sniper Photo

Established and funded by entrepreneur David Booth, Remuseum has additional support from the Ford Foundation to carry out its work over three years. He will form an advisory board, to be announced later this year, to develop creative solutions that address what Reily calls “totally unsustainable growth in their permanent collections.”

“Museums know this, they can’t keep renting more storage space for things they’ll never show,” he says. “They should really ask themselves if new buildings are being built to serve their donors and collectors, as much as they are to fully engage their audiences, and they should really ask themselves if they even matter to enough people in the community that they aim to serve. And I think some of the serious structural questions about how museums and their budgets are organized go unchallenged at the board table.

Reily ran the Speed ​​Art Museum for four years until 2021, decide to leave, he announced, after achieving the milestones he set for himself when he settled into the role. During her tenure, the institution released its first Racial Equity Report in 2020 and created free family memberships for households that receive government assistance. He also modeled an unconventional form of programming, quickly arranging a exposure in direct response to the police killing of Breonna Taylor, organized by Allison Glenn who worked with Taylor’s family.

“I’m an entrepreneur who ended up running a museum at a time when the museum was bringing a new building to life and reinventing its relationship with our community and our region,” says Reily. The work, he adds, was exciting. “But I was also sometimes frustrated or confused by the extent to which these legacy systems, the rules by which the field governs itself, sometimes made it difficult to innovate.”

Reily is currently the only full-time employee of Remuseum, which is affiliated with but independent of Crystal Bridges. He will work with councils from museum workers as well as a yet-to-be-formed advisory council of museum leaders, artists and administrators. The team will then identify and make publicly available metrics on spending by museums, particularly collecting institutions that are the primary museum in their communities. A measure of success after three years, he says, would be that museums “spend at least as much money on the public as they spend on the objects”.

“Most museums in America capture the attention and visits of only a very small percentage of their population,” he says. “I believe museums when they say and adopt missions that want to serve all the people in their communities. And I think if they worked harder and allocated their resources to matter to more people, the support could follow.

Remuseum plans to publish its first results by early 2024.

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