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By Karen Nikos-Rose on February 9, 2021

Monthly Panel Discussions

By Hayley Morris, UC Davis Media Relations Intern

The Crocker Art Museum’s next online event in their Equity in Museums series will discuss Native American representation. The panelists include Dakota Hoska, Kathryn Bunn-Marcuse, Laurie Egan-Hedley, and UC Davis graduate Brittani Orona. To register for the  ‘Discussing Native American Representation in Museums” event on Feb. 11 click here

This is their second such event, emphasizing the realities of racial and social inequity within museums and cultural institution. ”Your involvement is important as we open a dialogue to go beyond statements and implement solutions for equal access, opportunity, and engagement with the arts,” Crocker officials said.

The realities of racial and social inequity within museums and cultural institutions have long been discussed in the field. As an institution, the Crocker has made a commitment to examine these issues internally and in the museum’s relationship to the community. This discussion series seeks to open the conversation up to the wider public through attendee participation and features new panelists from the cultural sector each month.

More about last week’s panelists: history of social exclusion

A panel of museum professionals who are actively focusing on internal diversity, equity, inclusion, and access work at their respective institutions held a discussion on the history of cultural exclusion and erasure in museums, including the current concern about the lack of racial and cultural representation. Speakers at that January event emphasized the steps that need to be taken in order for museums to remain relevant and sustainable moving forward. 

The Manetti Shrem Museum is hosting a similar event Feb. 19. Keep an eye out for that in the Arts Blog.

Michelle Steen, manager of public programs at the Crocker Art Museum, opened the discussion asking the other panelists to share movement and progress they’ve seen in terms of equity within their institutions. Francisco Rosas, internal communications and process manager at the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, said the elimination of unpaid internships has resolved the “pipeline” diversity issue within the staff employed at the museum. 

Claire Muñoz, Charles N. Mathewson senior director of Education at the Nevada Museum of Art told the audience that  “part of community engagement is understanding and building relationships so when we do have opportunities we’re able to share those opportunities in a way that feels true and that feels authentic, and feels like we’re inviting people in, and that we do have an inclusive relationship that’s based on trust.” Muñoz encourages teaching children, for example, to become ambassadors of social change through the investment of family programs and engagement to encourage new forms of thinking relating to diversity culture.

The panelists discussed, among other issues, the historical implications of museums built and centered on white supremacy and how these institutions can require internal accountability. Francisco Rosas, internal communications and process manager at the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, suggested that a process of “calling in” rather than “calling out” is necessary with those inside the institution. She added that partnering with other organizations such as Be The Change, who conduct all-staff implicit bias training, and to allow for the presence of new and inclusive vocabulary to be used within museum organizations and institutions. Carmen Beals, education outreach manager at the Nevada Museum of Art, discussed the prevalent inequity highlighted by extensive museum layoffs during the COVID-19 pandemic, noting how these layoffs have disproportionately affected people of color.

 “I think the first thing we’re doing right as an industry is calculating. Now that we know those statistics, it’s time to do our part and take action into trying to make that right.”

Rosas emphasized, in the program’s conclusion, that educating the “people in power” is also essential for deep structural change within museum culture.

Beals, from Nevada, added that people need to take 30 minutes each week to identify one community partner that is of another background “that is different from yours, or the majority of backgrounds that visit your facility. “From there, invite them to the museum where they can learn about you, and you can learn about them and see what they would like to see in a museum as it relates to diversity and inclusivity.”