In the past quarter we prioritized and embraced perspectives that harness our core value of inclusivity and goal to be a museum of many voices in dialogue — from the art we showcase in our galleries to the internally focused Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work we’ve been carrying out.
After reopening in March, we successfully opened the exhibition Nam June Paik on May 8 to rave reviews from the press and public. From the SF Examiner, “An artist whose work, fifteen years after his death, still feels prescient, while radiating an optimism we currently need.” The retrospective is the first major Paik show in the U.S. in over twenty years and the first-ever large-scale survey of his work on the West Coast. Other new exhibitions in Q4 included Contemporary Optics, featuring the return of Olafur Eliasson’s One-way colour tunnel, a visitor favorite, and the long-awaited arrival of Diego Rivera’s monumental mural Pan American Unity, which opened in our free-to-the-public Roberts Family Gallery on June 28.
Our biggest internal DEI milestone this quarter was finalizing the museum’s Statement of Intention, a document that speaks to the intent behind the actionable and impactful work ahead and represents perspectives and voices from across the museum — all staff, the DEI core team, executive team, and the board. The statement amplifies our key goals to acknowledge the past and to identify values and the framework we will use to move forward, inspire hope, and hold ourselves accountable.
Staff and trustees participated in hours of conversations, discussions, and thoughtful debates to ensure that the important work outlined in the Statement of Intention was prioritized and that we remained vigilant about achieving our larger collective goals.
With this groundwork, the completion of the Statement of Intention marks a crucial and transformative step in SFMOMA’s DEI journey. Since releasing the statement in early May, the museum began activating Phase II of our DEI Strategic Plan, which includes prioritizing the completion and phasing of each DEI Project Team’s respective action plan and finalizing the DEI Strategic Plan.
As we continue to advance efforts on transforming our culture from the inside out, the museum has partnered with a licensed psychologist and gender therapist/specialist. They are consulting on the most appropriate and inclusive identity terminology and information-gathering practices for use across departments. During summer 2021, the consultant will lead three diversity and inclusion trainings on gender identity and sexuality diversity for all staff. Future sessions with our trustees will follow later in the year.
August 2021 Update on Our Institutional DEI Commitments
Complete (and Ongoing)
- Launch the Inclusive Internship Initiative. In 2018, SFMOMA launched this 10-week paid summer program for undergraduate and graduate students, funded by Bank of America.
- Manage and investigate employee complaints of discrimination and harassment, and conduct a review of past employee complaints, investigatory practices, and case trends. During summer 2020, SFMOMA partnered with an external employee relations legal team to review past employee complaints. All previously pending matters are closed, and several corrective measures have been implemented to help prevent and promptly resolve future staff concerns. Measures include a workplace conduct investigations policy and resolution process, as well as expanded confidential reporting options, and in-depth training for supervisors and staff. We will continue to take all steps necessary to ensure a safe, compliant, and inclusive workplace for staff. Rodimiro Coronado, Director of Human Resources and People Operations, was hired in September 2020.
- Begin implicit bias training for all staff, with refresher training every year. Since July 2020, staff completed five training sessions facilitated by Dr. Darlene Hall:
- Power and Privilege 101
- The Psychology of Privilege
- Conflict and Communication
- Sociocultural and Privilege Dynamics in Communication
- Closing out the Diversity Action Framework
All staff completed a new Unconscious Bias Training in November 2020. Additional training is likely to be developed with DEI Project Team deliverables.
- Participate in a collaboration/paid intern partnership with the Art History and Curatorial Studies Collective, a consortium of three historically Black colleges and universities: Spelman College, Morehouse College, and Clark Atlanta University. Summer interns in the Department of Painting and Sculpture concluded their remote internships and made final presentations on August 27, 2020. The team is in conversations to continue this partnership in a similar capacity in 2021.
- Participate in equity trainings and assessment with Race Forward. In fall 2019, over 300 staff and 26 Trustees participated in racial equity trainings facilitated by Race Forward. This was followed by a comprehensive assessment based on learnings from the trainings, a staff-wide survey, and interviews with over 25 staff members from all levels and departments of the museum. Initial findings and recommendations were presented to staff on February 28, 2020, with the final report shared in June 2020. These findings in part inform SFMOMA’s continued DEI work.
- Establish Peggy Guggenheim Fund to help broadly diversify SFMOMA’s collection. In 2019, the museum established the Peggy Guggenheim Fund with the primary goal of broadly diversifying SFMOMA’s collection. Newly acquired works now on display include paintings by Jeffrey Gibson, Sam Gilliam, Alma Thomas, Mickalene Thomas, and Rosemarie Trockel.
- Hire a Director of Employee Experience and Internal Communication, as well as a Director of Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging. Kenyatta Parker, director of Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging started in September 2020. Annie Jizmagian, director of Employee Experience and Internal Communication started in September 2020.
- Create SFMOMA’s DEI Core Team to help lead DEI activity. A DEI Core Team of select trustees and staff from across the museum was formed in summer 2020. This group is responsible for designing, coordinating, and organizing racial equity plans and activities up, down, and across the museum with support from DEI consultants Leverage to Lead. In June 2021, a Board Project Team was formed to focus on board-specific actions for the Museum’s DEI Strategic Plan.
- Diversity Action Framework. The Diversity Action Framework document was created from feedback collected from museum staff that shared observations, concerns, and ideas about where and how the museum can and should improve. This document was completed in March 2021.
- Finalize DEI Project Teams. DEI Project Teams were finalized in November 2020 and comprise a selection of staff from across the organization, led by a Core Team staff member and Trustee. Project Teams focus on creating equity action plans for specific areas of focus at the museum.
- Task leadership and supervisors with creating employee work plans that allow staff to dedicate paid time each month toward DEI work and community volunteering. The People Team announced the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Ten-Hour Policy, allowing staff to allocate up to 10 hours a month to participate in DEI efforts and programs across the museum.
- Draft Statement of Intent acknowledging that museums and cultural organizations are not (and should not be) neutral; we need to address what this means for our work at SFMOMA. The DEI Core Team worked with consultants Leverage to Lead to create and finalize SFMOMA’s DEI Statement of Intention. The Statement’s goal is to provide context for SFMOMA’s DEI work and to establish a baseline shared understanding.
- Revise our exhibition-review process through a DEI lens to make this process more transparent and inclusive throughout the museum. The first pilot for the Exhibition Development Process rolled out in October 2020. More voices were incorporated (including all senior staff and project/content producers, a new values rubric, and staff opportunities to pitch project ideas as part of the new workflow). Robust analysis from Exhibitions & Program Management followed to determine project scope and budget size. Much was learned from initial meetings, and they continue to evolve. Exhibition Development meetings are held approximately five times a year for sizable exhibitions that require multiple stakeholders to contribute. Several DEI Core and Project Team members participate as part of the process. All meetings are recorded and available for staff to access and learn about exhibitions and the ideas that are generated that build content and scope.
- Pilot gender-neutral restrooms in our staff spaces, to be extended throughout the entire museum when funding allows. All staff restrooms (multi and single occupancy) on levels LL, 8, 9, and 10, and Single and Family restrooms in public spaces on museum levels 1, 2, 3, and 4 have been made All Gender using new signage (no physical retrofits). Additional restroom modifications are being explored for a possible Phase 3.
- Participate in Facing Change initiative. SFMOMA’s Board is currently participating in Facing Change: Advancing Board Diversity and Inclusion a three-year program (2019–2021) created by the American Alliance of Museums.
- Develop a long-term programming partnership with one or more Black arts organizations in the Bay Area. We have had several conversations with a potential partner with whom we hope to work.
- Provide a professional development program for all staff in all areas of museum operations. Opportunities will be provided to staff in 2021 to participate in Talent/HR training topics. Further programmatic developments are being evaluated to create pathways for our employees. Training and professional development opportunities are also being brainstormed with DEI Project Team deliverables.
- Begin plans to publicly share a breakdown of the racial and gender diversity of our staff, trustees, and collection, as we strive to diversify the museum. SFMOMA’s 2020 Dashboard can be found here. In June 2021, we reposted the Artist Identity Project page linked to the FY20 Dashboard on SFMOMA’s website after consulting with an outside expert and addressing identity factors that were initially misrepresented. In January 2021, the Collections team commenced the process of readying the CMS to receive thoughtful, carefully expressed data about artist backgrounds. Concurrently, the Curatorial department is developing a fresh process for connecting with living artists about biographical information, as well as information about their works. The project is conceived as having three parallel tracks:
- Track A — Collections: research, review, express data related to deceased artists
- Track B — Collections: research, review, express placeholder data related to living artists (replaced subsequently by self-reported data)
- Track C — Curatorial: ask living artists directly about their identities
- Continue to expand and diversify collections and works on view, with an increased focus on the sustained presence and prominence of works by underrepresented artists in the galleries. Hire curatorial staff who can support these efforts. The Curatorial staff continues to broaden the stories told in collection displays, with a particular emphasis on amplifying Black and other underrepresented voices. Newly installed works include historic examples by Black American artists from a recent gift of 31 works by 20 artists from Pamela Joyner and Fred Giuffrida to SFMOMA. The Curatorial division is committed to increased diversity at every level. The division continues its search for new staff members which launched in fall 2020.
- Continue to offer diversity trainings to all staff and trustees throughout the year for continued learning, support, and growth. Currently working with licensed psychologist and gender therapist/specialist to lead three diversity and inclusion trainings on gender identity and sexuality diversity for all staff this summer. Future sessions with our trustees will follow later in the year.
- Finalize the museum’s DEI Strategic Plan. This plan will document all the elements of our DEI work-to-date–our core DEI mission and vision, team structure, detailed action plans, and more.