A dozen museums in the Twin Cities have been selected to take part in a national initiative to increase racial diversity in museum boards and leadership, including the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis Institute of Art and Science Museum of Minnesota.

The American Alliance of Museums (AAM) is launching a program involving 50 museums nationwide, with $4 million in grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Alice L. Walton Foundation and Ford Foundation that will provide the training and resources for museum leaders to build cultures that better reflect the communities they serve.

In 2017, a survey by AAM and BoardSource found that 46% of museum boards are all white. While 77% of museum directors believed that increasing the racial and ethnic diversity of their boards was important to advancing their missions, according to the survey, only 10% of museum boards had developed a plan to be more inclusive.

Science Museum of Minnesota President and CEO Alison Brown said changing diversity and inclusion within an organization won't be successful unless the board is part of that change. Twenty-one percent of the museum's board members are people of color, and 38% are women. With more of Minnesota's youths being people of color, the museum wants to reflect its changing audience.

But in doing racial-equity surveys of staff and volunteers for the last two years, the museum found a disparity in the comfort level of people of color vs. white participants about working there. The museum has made progress in that area, but it still isn't where it needs to be, Brown said.

"The hardest work has been our work on ourselves, and for me to learn my own biases, to learn what I need to do as a leader to be more open," Brown said.

Also receiving grant funding are the American Swedish Institute, Anoka County Historical Society, Bell Museum, Goldstein Museum of Design, Hennepin History Museum, Minnesota Museum of American Art, Ramsey County Historical Society, University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum and Weisman Art Museum.

Maya Rao • 612-673-4210