After Students of Color Were Harassed at the MFA Boston Earlier This Year, the Museum Is Now Hiring a New ‘Director of Inclusion’

It’s the latest effort by the museum to make itself more welcoming to diverse audiences.

A group of educators and community roundtable participants watch a video designed to help familiarize students and group organizers with the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. Photo: Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston is creating a new staff position to oversee the institution’s diversity efforts. The news follows a much-publicized incident last May in which several students of color were harassed during a visit to the museum—an episode that has spurred an official apology from museum management, the banning of two of its members, numerous public discussions with the community, and an investigation from the Massachusetts state attorney general

The person who fills the new role, with the title senior director of inclusion, will oversee a department within the museum’s division of learning and community engagement. Following a roundtable meeting with Boston city council members and other local leaders last month, the museum is writing the job description now and will post it in the coming weeks. 

“This new position signals the MFA’s deepened commitment to inclusion, community, and generosity—core tenets of the museum’s 150th anniversary in 2020 and beyond, key to inspiring new audiences to explore the collection,” according to a statement from the museum. 

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The meeting, led by museum director Matthew Teitelbaum and chief of learning and community engagement Makeeba McCreary, also yielded several new changes to the way the institution handles visits from school groups. Now, the museum, which receives roughly 60,000 elementary and high school students annually, will provide field-trip attendees with a questionnaire, a digital presentation, and a video produced by the the museum’s teen program in an effort to address potential student concerns and to better understand what teachers are hoping to gain from the experience. Additional staff will be placed at the entrance to the museum where school groups enter, and educators will be stationed in popular galleries to answer questions.  

“It’s not a secret that this museum doesn’t serve folks who are black and brown,” McCreary, who will oversee the new senior director of inclusion, told the Boston Associated Press. “We know enough to know that’s not who we want to be.”

Representation of women is an issue at the museum as well. A study published by artnet News last month found that just 4 percent of the work collected by the museum between 2008 and 2018 was done by women. Though the institution may be taking steps to address this disparity, too. Currently on view at the museum is “Women Take the Floor,” an expansive exhibition of women artists that occupies the entire third level of its American wing.

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