To the Editor:
Today, many museums and other cultural institutions are grappling with the question of how to diversify their boards. Board diversity is often approached without taking into account the broader diversity of cultural organizations.
But my research on patronage at African-American museums suggests that attracting and retaining Black supporters at “mainstream” cultural institutions will depend on those organizations embracing a comprehensive agenda for change.
For example, during my interviews with Black supporters of African-American museums, it was common for patrons to share that they were attracted to supporting these institutions not only because of their focus on African-American artists, but also because of their outreach to African-American audiences and employment of a diverse staff.
This means that efforts to attract Black supporters to museums cannot be done in isolation. Instead, museums that want to increase board diversity will need to take a hard look at the diversity of their institutions as a whole.
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