MFA Will Invest $500,000 and Implement Innovative Policies and Procedures Following Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy Field Trip
BOSTON – Attorney General Maura Healey announced today that her office has reached an agreement with the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston that includes important policies and procedures and a $500,000 fund devoted to diversity and inclusion initiatives following allegations of racial discrimination raised by teachers and students from the Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy (DLA).
The memorandum of understanding (MOU) is the result of an investigation by the AG’s Office and represents an innovative, forward-looking, and collaborative approach to address allegations of racism after a field trip last year. This first-of-its-kind agreement structures a reconciliation process between the MFA and the field trip participants, as well as a community-driven process through which the MFA will engage with and support local communities, artists, and youth of color.
“Our cultural institutions play an important role in fostering and providing an inclusive environment for communities and people of all backgrounds,” said AG Healey. “Today’s agreement affirms the experiences of students and teachers from the Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy and lifts up their voices and the voices of local communities of color to help shape change and greater understanding. This agreement lays out processes which can serve as a model for cultural institutions in our ongoing collective work to build diversity and inclusivity in Boston and well beyond. I am grateful to all of our partners who worked with our office on this effort.”
“There’s nothing more important to us than making sure everyone feels welcome at the MFA,” said Matthew Teitelbaum, Ann and Graham Gund Director. “Working with Attorney General Healey and the Davis Leadership Academy, we have the opportunity to create a new model of inclusion and diversity to serve Boston and we hope to set an example for others to follow. We look forward to our partnership and embracing this important work. It will build upon the foundation established by our strategic plan over the past three years. We have learned a great deal during the past year and through this process, and while we have more to learn and more work to do, together we will succeed. Whether you walk through the doors of the Museum every day, every week, once a year, or just once, everyone is welcome at the MFA.”
“On behalf of the Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy Charter Public School, we would like to thank Attorney General Maura Healey and her staff in the Civil Rights Division for all the hard work expended in investigating and resolving serious allegations of racial discrimination reported by our students and staff arising out of a field trip to the Museum of Fine Arts last May,” said Board of Trustees Chairman Dr. Michael Silas, Executive Director Christopher Coblyn, and Principal Arturo Forrest. “The Academy also is grateful that the MFA, in recognizing that much more needs to be done to create a more inclusive environment for current and future patrons, is willing to take constructive measures to build community relationships to achieve that goal. We look forward to working together with the MFA and the Attorney General’s Office in the development and implementation of a meaningful action plan with that common goal in mind.”
The memorandum of understanding was developed with input from key community partners, including the Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy, Lawyers for Civil Rights, and the NAACP Boston Branch.
“We are deeply grateful to the Attorney General for championing these important civil rights issues on behalf of students, families, educators, and communities of color,” said Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, Executive Director of Lawyers for Civil Rights. “We are pleased that the MFA will be working closely with the Attorney General, the DLA community, and NAACP Boston Branch to help the MFA become a more welcoming space for all visitors. This agreement creates a unique blueprint for community engagement and dialogue about the importance of diversity, inclusion, and cultural competency in all cultural and public institutions so that they better reflect and respect the diverse populations they serve. We look forward to continued collaboration with the MFA, the Attorney General, the NAACP Boston Branch, and the DLA community to ensure that students of color have a positive experience at the MFA moving forward.”
“This is a historic agreement that we hope serves as a national model. When we began this journey nearly one year ago, it was our hope that this process would affirm that regardless of where we come from, we all belong in Boston; and that our most difficult moments can be transformative in breaking down racial barriers when we lean into them. It is our hope that this MOU is affirming for our community, and that both the experience of the DLA students and the guidance provided by this MOU are instructive for other institutions in our community seeking to deepen their racial equity and inclusion work,” said Tanisha M. Sullivan, President of the NAACP Boston Branch. “We are proud of the DLA students for being persistent in raising important racial equity issues throughout this process, and grateful for the steadfast leadership of AG Healey, her team, and LCR. We also want to commend the partnership commitment made by the MFA through this MOU, and we look forward to supporting the MFA as it deepens its racial equity and inclusion work so that all of our community can feel, and be, welcomed into one of the greatest cultural institutions in our nation.”
The agreement acknowledges that the MFA has already undertaken efforts – both before and after the field trip – designed to create a welcoming environment of diversity and inclusion, including staff training on unconscious bias, hiring a Chief of Learning and Community Engagement, and creating the position of Senior Director of Belonging and Inclusion.
Under the terms of today’s agreement, the MFA further commits to the following:
Reconciliation and Collaboration
The MFA, field trip participants and the Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy will collaborate on an action plan to ensure a welcoming experience for all members of the community.
The MFA will retain an external consultant with experience in structuring an organization’s diversity and inclusion efforts to assist with the implementation of the commitments made in today’s agreement. The consultant will also study the broader culture and climate at the MFA with respect to matters of diversity, inclusion, belonging, and welcoming.
The MFA and the external consultant will provide biannual reports for the public on the progress of diversity and inclusion efforts. The biannual reports will be provided to the AG’s Office and will be made available on the MFA’s website.
The MFA will create and improve processes for building and deepening connections with communities of color, including through the MFA’s programming and exhibits. With input from community groups, the MFA will document and finalize a Community Engagement Action Plan that may involve new programming or enhancement of existing programs, such as partnerships with and programming for local schools and community organizations that primarily serve students of color, partnerships with local artists of color, and leadership programs and internship opportunities for local high school students of color.
The MFA has committed to creating a fund in the amount of $500,000 dedicated to implementing the commitments to community engagement and collaboration with the Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy.
Improved Policies and Procedures
The MFA will implement an anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policy that applies to the treatment of members of the public by MFA staff and volunteers, and to the treatment of members of the public by other visitors. The MFA will also implement a policy that applies to complaints of discrimination and harassment made by members of the public, and a policy for conducting internal investigations into complaints.
The MFA will continue to develop and implement a plan to provide unconscious bias training for all employees at all levels and for volunteers. The MFA will also train front-line staff, security guards, and volunteers on its new policies and how to interact with children in a developmentally appropriate and positive way.
This matter was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Amanda Hainsworth and Widmaier Charles, Division Chief Abigail Taylor, and former Assistant Attorney General Tara Dunn, all of the AG’s Civil Rights Division.