Black People Make Up Only 5.4 Percent of Top LA Museum Boards, Study Finds
May 29th, 2021
Just eighteen of 334 board seats at Los Angeles’s most prestigious arts institutions are held by Black people, the Los Angeles Times reports. The figure, which accounts for 5.4 percent of board seats at the ten museums surveyed by the paper, suggests that, despite the advances made in the art world in the year since George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police last May, the systemic shift toward diversity continues to occur at a ponderous pace. Though four years have passed since the most recent survey conducted by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), in 2017, the situation in Los Angeles appears to reflect that in the broader art world, where at last count 89 percent of board members at eight hundred US museums surveyed identified as white, with 46 percent of boards reporting an all-white membership.
The paper additionally queried museums regarding the number of BIPOC, or nonwhite, people on their boards. Of combined board members at the Autry Museum of the American West; the Broad; the Getty Trust; the Hammer Museum; the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Museum of Latin American Art; the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County; and the Orange County Museum of Art, just 19.5 percent identified as BIPOC. For context, 74 percent of the population of Los Angeles County identifies as nonwhite, with 9 percent identifying as Black. Notably, the Broad’s board was 100 percent white, while the Autry Museum and the Museum of Latin American Art reported no Black board members.
Though the pace of change is slow, “I do think museums are understanding their future relevance and viability depends on confronting these issues and less than perfect histories,” AAM president Laura Lott told the paper. Lott further noted that while consumers might play a role in holding museums accountable through providing or withholding their attendance, “I think there could be a lot more transparency to the community about who’s on [a given museum’s] board, what they’re doing and what their priorities are.”