Anti-Racism Strategic Plan, FY 2022–2025

Museum of Art Museum of Art

Anti-Racism Strategic Plan, FY 2022–2025

Growing out of the Anti-Racism Action Plan developed by the Bowdoin College Museum of Art a year ago, the following Anti-Racism Strategic plan, developed by the Museum’s Anti-Racism Task Force (ARTForce) reflects the Museum’s long-standing commitment to equity and inclusion, as reflected in its FY 2020-25 Strategic Plan.

We recognize that museums can be powerful sites for change, for justice, and for liberation, and we remain dedicated to taking meaningful action against the historical forces of systemic racism deeply ingrained in the fabric of our society. We are buoyed in our efforts by President Rose’s strong affirmation of the College’s commitment to anti-racism (see his June 11, 2020; September 2, 2020; October 23, 2020, and June 28, 2021 messages). Benefitting from the input of the Office of the Dean for Academic Affairs, the Museum’s staff, and faculty and student representatives of the Museum’s Advisory Council, this plan describes specific priorities, strategies, and tactics to implement the seven key goals described below. The three-year duration of this plan will enable the Museum to fold together its commitment to anti-racism as it develops its next institutional Strategic Plan in 2025. The Museum’s staff looks forward to working with Bowdoin faculty, staff, and students to implement this vision. 

I. Exhibitions

GOAL: Ensure that special exhibitions and installations from the Museum’s permanent collection reflect the breadth of the Museum’s commitment to being a transhistorical institution that displays works made by artists from around the world. Develop strategies for regularly exhibiting non-western art.

  1. Create channels for reviewing proposed exhibitions that include Museum staff, faculty, and students:
    1. Create a new exhibition review structure that solicits feedback and input on proposals from Museum and campus stakeholders.
  2. Reinstall permanent collection galleries in a fashion that decenters traditional Euro-American perspectives and provides visibility to collections from around the world.
    1. Acknowledge, confront, and critique Euro-American perspectives.                        
    2. Acknowledge the integrity of the cultures who have created the work we exhibit and explicitly resist historic tendencies within Euro-American institutions to “other” art created by non-Euro-American communities.
  3. Work wwith outside voices, visiting artists, and local community leaders to challenge, critique, and enrich traditional narratives and interpretations.
    1. Include, whenever possible, expert consultants from among members of communities whose work is considered for display.
    2. Consult with other academic departments on campus, especially art history and visual art, to better understand how non-Euro-American artistic traditions are being taught as a means to develop mindful strategies for rethinking our own interpretation of non-Euro-American histories of art.

II. Collections

GOAL: Focus institutional collecting on international and transcultural artworks, both historic and contemporary. In addition, further integrate collecting with Bowdoin’s academic curriculum and encourage conversations with faculty that lead to new additions to the Museum’s collection.

  1. Revise current strategic collecting plan and begin the work of documenting and dismantling structural inequities apparent in the existing collection.
    1. Review past twenty years of institutional collecting (purchases) and use data to identify areas for strategic collecting.
    2. Initiate review of artworks that have been donated or whose purchase was underwritten by outside financial support over the past five years.
    3. Review gift acceptance policy with respect to strategic priorities.
  2. Ensure that accurate data and metadata about artworks are recorded in the Museum’s collections management system. Revise existing data to align with DEI commitments and ensure that data around non-Euro-American art and objects receive equal care and attention.
    1. Acknowledge the Museum’s own positionality in doing this work, particularly with respect to historically embedded power structures.
  3. Review policies around conservation, equitable collections care, and ethical storage practices that reflect cultural sensitivities:
    1. Complete NAGPRA review.

III. Academic Initiatives and Campus Engagement

GOAL: Ensure that the Museum consistently serves Bowdoin’s diverse student body and other campus audiences through curricular and extra-curricular opportunities.

  1. Rethink, formalize, and expand academic initiatives team to create additional staff resources and sustainable pathways and programs for curricular and campus engagement, connecting diverse faculty and students across disciplines to the Museum's international and transcultural collection, resources, and scholarship, including exhibitions, publications, and exhibitions:
    1. Review job descriptions across Museum staff to ensure engagement and collaboration with academic initiatives.
  2. Acknowledge the importance of the BCMA’s role as a campus museum in diversifying the professional ranks of art organizations. Together with faculty and partners in Career Exploration and Development, develop academic and professional opportunities, including internships on and off campus, to bolster pathways for students into the museum and arts field.
  3. Conduct annual audit of Academic Initiatives and their impact with campus partners.
    1. Annually review class visitation data with Bowdoin’s Office of Institutional Research for alignment with College metrics.
    2. Consult with faculty about how to measure the depth of student engagement with museum collections through their coursework.
    3. Annually review data with Bowdoin’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion to identify gaps and areas for improvement.
    4. Use data to drive targeted curricular outreach to departments that will create more avenues for access to diverse student body.
    5. Conduct formal evaluations of student internships.
  4. Continue to review Museum’s mission to ensure alignment with broader College and academic curriculum.

IV. Staff and Institutional Structures

GOAL: Create an institutional structure and workplace climate that empowers staff members to seek change and to provide leadership across Museum activities. Create and uphold high standards around the principles of DEI that allow the Museum and its staff to provide leadership across campus and in the community.

  1. Complete and implement Strategic Anti-Racism Plan in FY 2022.
    1. Use Anti-Racism Task Force to oversee the implementation of the Anti-Racism Strategic Plan and the development of metrics for success.
    2. Establish monthly reporting out at staff meetings on institutional DEI initiatives and activities of the Anti-Racism Task Force.
    3. Create a communications plan for publicizing the Museum’s DEI work and for receiving critical feedback.
  2. Continue anti-racism training for BCMA staff.
    1. Ensure that supervisors take a lead role in ensuring that this training is part of individual work plans.
    2. Implement art museum-specific Anti-Racism and Unconscious Bias Training.
    3. Host DEI workshop focused especially on the arts and museums.
    4. Ask staff to evaluate their own job responsibilities to incorporate anti-racist actions/activities.
    5. Work with staff to create Individual Value Statements designed to help empower staff to build their commitment to DEI into their professional work.
    6. Work with staff to create a Code of Conduct for the BCMA.  Working together to build this code will help staff members to feel invested and to recognize their own accountability in building community.
    7. Work with HR to support this work.
    8. Create protocols for orienting/onboarding new staff and interns.
    9. Participate in College-wide DEAI initiatives.
  3. Study the BCMA’s past and develop metrics for assessing work and outcomes related to DEI. Create partnerships across campus and with other peer museums to support this work.
    1. Implement an annual diversity “audit” in which practices are assessed.
  4. Raise funds and friends to support this work.
    1. Work with Development to grow the David Driskell Fund for Diversity Initiatives, a new endowment that supports DEI work at the BCMA.
    2. Create working group of Advisory Council members to leverage support, structured education, and the prioritization of DEI goals. 

V. Communications and Audience

GOAL: Expand the impact and reach of Museum exhibitions and programs by pro-active outreach to new campus and community audiences.

  1. Study how we are communicating with our audiences. Review pathways to print and digital communication.
    1. Define and survey our audiences and create programming that caters to the Museum’s diverse audiences.
    2. Develop exhibition and event surveys to determine the success of and gaps in the Museum’s programming.
    3. Improve communication with audiences around how to access Museum resources and to convey that we are free and open to the public
  2. Involve audiences for decision-making around exhibitions and programming..
  3. Strategic communication with student body.
    1. Create student outreach survey and further involve students in programming.
    2. Launch a “Student Museum Ambassadors” program
    3. Develop programming specifically aimed at students.

VI. Environment 

GOAL: Make the Museum a welcoming environment to diverse groups—physically, virtually, and culturally.

  1. Participate in a deliberative and inclusive process with College administrators, staff at the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum, other partners on campus, and members of BIPOC communities to explore land and labor acknowledgements.
  2. Review ADA compliance and find avenues for improving access for all visitors.
  3. Create an artistic intervention to disrupt current perceptions of the Museum.
    1. Commission a BIPOC artist to create a work for the Museum’s exterior or in its glass entrance pavilion.
  4. Formalize Security’s important role as part of the Museum’s welcome staff and work to ensure that the Museum feels safe in all respects.
  5. Rethink the role that the Museum shop staff plays to advance DEI work.

VII. Programming

GOAL: : Seek new and expanded audiences by diversifying programming and encouraging alternative event types and a broad roster of speakers and performers.

  1. Develop and issue guidance for curatorial staff to ensure DEI considerations when proposing programming.
    1. Work to ensure a diversity of points of view in the speakers who lead programs.
  2. Perform a historic review of speakers and develop future metrics based on review.
  3. Encourage individuals outside the curatorial team to contribute programming suggestions.
    1. Explore working more actively with classes to provide programming for the campus.
  4. Align programming with the College’s curriculum and DEI efforts.
    1. Ensure that the curator remains a part of the Lectures & Concerts Committee.
    2. Explore other strategies for alignment.

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