Press Release

Launch of Second Phase of Partnership with UNCF to Foster Diversity in the Next Generation of Museum Professionals

New York, NY

The initiative will place 14 college juniors from private and public historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in major American art museums for semester-long, paid internships to introduce them to the art museum field and help prepare them for leadership roles 

The pilot program will also provide these students with career and job readiness coaching and professional development training. Support for this initiative has been provided by the National Endowment for the Arts; Christie’s; Susan and David Rockefeller, Jr.; David Rockefeller; and the members of AAMD.

This joint initiative of UNCF and AAMD was first launched in 2013. Education experts from within the field were engaged to assist in the design and execution of the professional development and career-readiness training portions of the program, and to be a resource to the students. Thirteen students participated in the program during 2014-2015, gaining experience in a range of different possible careers within the museum field.

“We are building on the success of the first phase of our pilot program and providing more students access to the professional networks, work experience, and mentorship that are critical for removing the barriers of entry for people of color or underrepresented individuals, or African Americans who are seeking careers in the art museum field,” said Larry Griffith, Senior Vice President of Programs and Student Services at UNCF. “We are thrilled to continue our work with AAMD and to sustain this program, which we believe will effect important changes in the composition of museum leadership over time and across the country.”

 “The first phase of our partnership with UNCF has been tremendously successful as a foundation for building diversity in the field, and helping to ensure that our museums represent communities around the nation,” said Christine Anagnos, Executive Director of AAMD. “AAMD is committed to addressing the lack of diversity in senior management positions in the art museum field, and this second phase of this partnership continues our work in this area. We are excited to continue our collaboration with UNCF on this program and are grateful to all our new partners and funders who are supporting this effort.”

As a part of the program, selected AAMD member museums will provide stipends for 12 weeks of the spring 2016 semester, with Fellows working a minimum of 15 hours each week in a variety of museum departments and with the museum directors. The directors will also serve as mentors to these interns and offer support and advice as the Fellows progress through their education and careers.

Participating AAMD member museums: Birmingham Museum of Art, Clark Atlanta University Art Galleries (Atlanta), Columbia Museum of Art (Columbia, SC), Frist Center for the Visual Arts (Nashville), Hampton University Art Museum (Hampton, VA), High Museum of Art (Atlanta), Mint Museum (Charlotte, NC), Mississippi Museum of Art (Jackson), National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution (Washington, D.C.), New Orleans Museum of Art, Spelman College Museum of Fine Art (Atlanta), The Phillips Collection (Washington, D.C.), Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (Richmond), and the Walters Art Museum (Baltimore).

UNCF, which has more than 20 years of experience in creating pipeline programs for students of color, is providing crucial leadership in management and implementation of this initiative. This includes recruitment of university and college partners, student outreach and recruitment, application management, and implementation of a career and job readiness component. Additionally, UNCF will act as the fiscal agent, administering the program funds and coordinating payments of stipends to the Fellows.

College and university partners include: Allen University (Columbia, SC), Clark Atlanta University (Atlanta), Dillard University (New Orleans), Fisk University (Nashville), Hampton University (Hampton, VA), Howard University (Washington, D.C.), Johnson C. Smith University (Charlotte, NC), Miles College (Fairfield, AL), Morehouse College (Atlanta), Morgan State University (Baltimore), Spelman College (Atlanta), Tougaloo College (Tougaloo, MS), University of the District of Columbia, and Virginia Union University (Richmond). 

While this is UNCF’s latest major arts-focused career initiative in recent years, the organization has significant experience in creating and managing similar professional programs for students of color. The UNCF/Merck Science Initiative was launched in 1995 with a $20-million grant from The Merck Company Foundation, with the goal of increasing the number of African American students pursuing careers in scientific research. Currently, there are over 700 UNCF/Merck Fellows finishing their undergraduate or graduate studies, completing postdoctoral appointments, or working in academia and private industry. In 2009, UNCF replicated this model and piloted a similar pipeline program to increase the number of African American students who pursue careers in K-12 education reform. Of those students that have graduated, nearly 75 percent have committed to work in the education sector and/or continue their post-baccalaureate training in the education field. Additionally, four years ago, UNCF began operating the Gateway to Leadership (GTL) program, a pipeline program designed to increase the number of minorities who pursue professional management careers in the financial services industry. In the first cohort under UNCF leadership, 12 out of 15 participants secured employment in the financial services industry, resulting in an 80 percent placement rate.

For AAMD, continuing this partnership with UNCF represents an important step in developing and implementing a diversity initiative that has potential for national and even international impact—a key element of AAMD’s strategic plan. At an organizational level, the Association has increased its membership by more than 20 percent in the last five years, with a focus on recruiting members from institutions run by, or focused on, underrepresented communities.

As another aspect of AAMD’s commitment to fostering diversity in the art museum field, earlier this year AAMD participated in a survey conducted by the Mellon Foundation to assess ethnic and gender diversity of staffs of art museums across the United States. As the first comprehensive survey of its kind, the study demonstrates that minorities are underrepresented in the art museums field, replacing anecdotal evidence with hard data and providing a statistical baseline against which future progress can be measured. The survey also suggests that educational pipelines, such as the one created by the UNCF/AAMD partnership, can help address the current imbalance of diversity in the field.

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