This is a recorded session from the 2020 AAM Virtual Annual Meeting and MuseumExpo.
This session addresses the recent controversies surrounding museum trustees who have been the target of public protests due to their personal and professional interests often considered to be unethical, immoral, and contrary to the museum’s values and responsibilities. Our panelists will discuss how museums balance the financial necessities of creating powerful boards with the desire for museums to have more social relevance, diversity, transparency, and public participation. Attendees will gain a deeper understanding of the issues and learn strategies for board development, ethical fundraising, and crisis prevention, while adhering to our missions.
Presenters: Susana S. Bautista, La Plaza de Cultura y Artes; Stephanie A. Cunningham, Museum Hue; Lori G. Fogarty, Oakland Museum of California; John Wetenhall, George Washington University Museum; Sally Yerkovich, American Scandinavian Foundation
John Wetenhall: Do we have to be quiet, while they’re starting the broadcast here.
Susana Bautista: Whenever you say John is live now.
John Wetenhall: I’ll be quiet.
Susana Bautista: Okay, so I think that we’re going to get started now. Good morning, everyone. Thank you for joining our panel. I’m museum boards. I’m Susanna about Houston and museum consultant and senior curator plus a liquid to reality.
And I’ll be your moderator today.
For those of you who need closed caption viewing. There’s a link in the chat room.
So, our panel originated in response to the high profile controversies surrounding museum trustees who’ve been targeted by activist groups, due to their personal and professional activities that are considered unethical immoral and contrary to museum values.
They include Warren Calendars at the Whitney Museum in New York. He resigned last year as vice chair of the board and his wife is co-Chair of the museum’s painting and sculpture committee.
After protests of Safari land, the company that manufactures tear gas canisters that were found to have been used against migrants at the US Mexico border they had given over $10 million to the museum.
Larry Fink and Leon black the Museum of Modern Art in New York black was board chair and linked financially to accuse pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, and its private equity firm owns a defense contractor company.
Last year moment inaugurated. It’s 40 million generally on black family film center.
Larry Fink is a CEO of Black Rock that operates private prisons immigration detention centers and weapons companies, the Sackler family.
Owners of Purdue pharmacy that makes oxy content, the highly addictive of your drug they’ve given nearly 80 million to the arts and sciences since 2010
But last year, but the Metropolitan Museum and the Guggenheim stated they would no longer accept donations from the Sackler family. Others, such as the director of the Victorian Albert and in London have defended the Sackler
Rebecca Mercer last year and in 2015 David cock at the American Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC.
Both criticized for their funding of anti-climate change organizations and cost of ownership of oil manufacturing companies.
The Mercer Family Foundation gave 1.6 million to the museum between 2012 and 2017 and the Metropolitan Museum opened at $65 million David COC Plaza in 2014 the Matt did modified gift acceptance policy last year.
Protests in Britain started about 10 YEARS AGO WITH THE ART COLLECTIVE liberate Kate and the activist group BP or not. BP.
In response to British Petroleum sponsorship the tape museum and the British Museum, resulting in the tape agreeing not to accept any more fossil fuel funding in 2016. In the spirit of radically reimagining museums at this conference, we believe that this current crisis demands that we radically reimagine museum boards.
Let’s take this opportunity to consider what’s working, what’s not, and why are there alternatives to consider.
And how much will ethics transparency and public scrutiny matter in a post pandemic world other lines that your museum will not cross because of its mission and how rigid are those lines.
We placed this discussion within the current context, acknowledging that every single museum has been affected by financial hardships with loss revenues from music admission fees annual gala that have been cancelled.
Closed stores cafe space rentals in her trends. Watch report on May 18 Elizabeth merit stated that quote museums may not be able to afford to be picky about the source of donations in quote museums will likely turns their long time funders individuals foundations trustees for getting amounts to as much as 20% of total revenue for many museums.
But we also know that the pandemic has brought museums closer to their local communities and individual Members.
Who have relied on the amazing content that museum openly shared with them to get through these past few months, the very same public that gathered to occupy museums and protest and right open letters?
So how can museums prove to the public that they continue to have integrity that their ethical and that their governance is trusted and reliable.
The am code of ethics for museum states that museums in the US are organized as public trust holding their collections and information as a benefit for those they were established to serve.
As 501 C 3 charitable nonprofits museums are exempt from income tax and offer tax deductions to their donors, and as such are legally classified as public benefit corporations with directors who must abide by duties of care and loyalty
In a New York Times and picking PIECE LAST WEEK PERIOD or Gavin grin and wrote about the culturally influential position of trustees.
He asks quote can museums recognize that the needle of public opinion has moved on key red lines like fossil fuels the arms industry and colonialism.
Can they accept that their endowment of social legitimacy as material results in the world and use it responsibly?
Can they acknowledge that they are not neutral and then preserving culture and heritage for future generations is incompatible with supporting those who are destroying so many futures. These questions will increasingly be the new test of leadership from museum directors and quote
Now, to introduce our first speaker I acknowledge that our panel does not include the voice of the activist public, but I did reach out to the colonizers place and new sanctuary coalition with no response. So, if you are out there or if you represent that voice. Please join our conversation today.
Lori Fogarty, the director and CEO of the Oakland Museum of California.
Lori led the museum $63 million dollar Museum of California campaign and building renovation project and is currently leading the $85 million all in campaign for MCA Lori has spearheaded her museums efforts to place the visitor at the center of the museum experience and to focus the institution’s efforts around community engagement and social impact.
Prior to her current position. Laura was executive director of the Bay Area discovery museum and senior deputy director of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; she received the john cotton Dana Award for leadership from am and the Hank Russa outstanding fundraising professional Award from the association of Fundraising Professionals. She currently serves on the board of the crucible and is past president of the Association of art museum directors.
Lori Fogarty: Thank you. Susanna and very happy to be with my fellow panelists and with you all this morning.
You know, we wrote our notes for this panel, just a few weeks ago. And already, they take on new meaning if this is such a timely.
Topic, it was when we proposed it for the conference.
That was to be in San Francisco. And of course, now is we are thinking about how we reimagine and reinvent our museums in the wake of not only the pandemic. But the great
Civil unrest that is happening right now leadership at the museum trustee level leadership that aligns with museum values is more important than ever. And at the same time as Susana noted
We will be more reliant on contributed revenue in the coming years and much of that comes from our board or funds that our boards help raise. So, this is an opportunity for us to really rethink what it means to be a museum board and what the culture of that board is. So, next slide.
And I just wanted to give you a little sense of our museum as I talk about our board and some of the things that I have learned. This is the exterior of the Oakland Museum of California on a Friday night.
It’s both wonderful and kind of horrifying to see people standing so close, but this is really a centerpiece of our community engagement efforts.
And, you know, I’ve asked myself with this at this moment, why these ethical considerations and scrutiny have come up for museums so prominently in these last few years board composition as an issue has been one that has been scrutinized since I joined the museum profession in 1988
So, the, the concerns about the diversity of boards have to has been around a long time, and of course codes of ethics and professional standards and best practices have been around for decades. But I think there are a few emphases, excuse me, and I’m going to have you do the next slide.
Certainly, one of the key issues is or key emphasis for this is increased visible and broad based activism, particularly around issues such as racial equality gender equity climate change.
All of these kinds of issues and the widespread protests and, of course, now we’re seeing them very prominently in these last few days. This is the Women’s March in front of the museum in 2016 2017, of course, the 2016 election has also played into this and systemic and widespread income inequality.
And these issues now have thrust the museum into the conversation in a way that we haven’t seen before.
In some ways I see this as a positive development museums are seen as beacons of civilized societies trusted institutions as Susana said that are held in public trust.
And just as universities are now in the spotlight around these issues museums being seen as BATTLE GROUNDS for values reflects the society reflects that our society believes that museums are important and and that they should stand for the values that are that they purport to stand for we should recognize. I’m going to get. Have you show a couple more slides? This is a slide from our exhibition all power to the people. Black Panthers at 50 that we presented in 2015 and I just I included a couple slides here just because we obviously wouldn’t be able to present this kind of exhibition without real conversation and trust between the museum staff and board.
We should recognize that the most visible controversies have primarily been in the large New York museums where expectations around board, giving the profile of trustees.
And the gap between the professed values and programmatic direction of an institution and the views and positions of the board often seem in most conflict.
But I would argue that many of these concerns are pervasive and that museums of all sizes and types need to consider these issues at this moment.
I also want to say I am the sole museum director on the panel, and I’m sure there’s sure that was also hard to find a museum directors is on as well as voices from other sectors and I think I just want to acknowledge for any directors on this.
In in the room, so to speak, that this is a very, very difficult issue for directors.
You heard that a lot of my work is in fundraising and that is the board role is crucial, there I also understand that the directors don’t have total control over their board composition. Obviously, one colleague who’s the director of a major Museum in New York indicated that heat to me that he had no role in board recruitment, which I found very interesting we also know that many museums, particularly art museums have been built on philanthropy and that moving away from wealth, being the primary consideration for board service isn’t going to change quickly. So, what can we do, we’re going to have you go to our first slide here.
And I will say as I share these thoughts. This is a picture of our members of our board at a staff meeting.
And, you know, something that we really try to foster is that direct board staff conversation. So next slide.
And I will say, I don’t. PURPORT these to be recommendations necessarily or best practices. I think these are ways of operating that I have found helpful in my work with the board.
First of all, ground board recruitment responsibilities training and culture in the institution’s values and mission and social impact and be clear what that social impact.
Is make clear to two board members as they joined the board that they are stewards of the public trust that they are there to represent the public and that as much as museums must model civility and empathy and as ethics trustees must uphold this standard as well.
Next, so this next one is challenging rethinking the board criteria beyond philanthropic capacity and we’ve worked very hard to do this at the local museum of California.
Considering different kinds of skills characteristics networks and especially intercultural skills and values as part of the board matrix. In addition to profession expertise and wealth.
I think this is a really important one, and particularly right now is creating the strong alliance between the board chair and the director that communication needs to be rock solid and there needs to be very clear expectations set for the board chair and the director about how they will interact, how they were share information.
And how they will come together to align, and I think many of the issues we have been seeing at museums have are a result of such a disconnect between the board and the staff and the director being that that lynchpin of communication between the board and the staff.
And this is a point in response to what I mentioned earlier about the director being part of the recruitment process.
I think it’s, it’s, I play a very, very central role in board recruitment nominating and the entire governing process.
And I think the director and hopefully other key senior staff are able to be part of meeting prospective trustees and certainly part of designing the new trustee orientation and how board members are brought in and become part of the culture.
And lastly, incorporate mission into every board meeting and use the opportunity to come to board meetings to connect board to staff and staff at every levels, not just the CFO or the head of development but bringing other staff into board meetings and really sharing the work that happens at the Newseum on a day to day basis.
Utilize the board retreat for topics that relate to the museum’s role in the community and particularly topics of diversity, equity inclusion and access and I will just end my remarks by saying we are very fortunate at own code to be part of the facing change initiative.
For board diversity. And I would say that, you know, these values of equity and inclusion also must underpin all of our board work and that means now the very personal work that is happening at our board level around the DEIA so I will end there. And with those bit of information I’ve learned from my many years working with boards. Thank you.
Susana Bautista: I’m sorry little trouble and getting myself. Thank you so much Lori. That was really, really wonderful. And yes, it’s important to hear from museum directors.
I’d like to introduce our next speaker. Patrick Salazar is the founder and Board Chair of Latinas leap.
Latinas for leadership excellence and diversity, a nonprofit organization that seeks to increase Latino representation on boards of directors in the nonprofit industry.
A seasoned nonprofit expert for over 25 years Patrick has worked as a consultant or senior executive at organizations such as electric lodge friends at the Santa Monica library.
National Association of these black, Latino, arts and culture assistance league of Los Angeles Pacific battleship center museum.
Used to like classic theater and the Harry S. Truman Scholarship foundation and as an executive search consultant with em Oppenheimer associates.
He has a BA in business from the University of Utah and an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, with an emphasis on nonprofit management and ethics Patrick served in the US Navy was decorated for service during the Iranian hostage crisis in 1980
Patrick Salazar: You might be there. Am I unmuted?
I first of all want to apologize if you hear any background noise. That’s our neighborhood friendly gardener.
Susana Bautista: So, this is just our…
Patrick Salazar: World in LA and I want to welcome you to it.
Thank you, sauna for having putting this panel together and for inviting me to join it. And I want to wish the best of everybody for good health and safe times during a crazy days. I’m gonna go ahead and switch the show. I just say next.
So, I want to, I want to make sure, a couple of disclaimers here my work really focuses on board of governing for diversity from a Latino perspective.
So, I can’t really speak to other racial ethnic group experiences in terms of important governing boards or other groups that are, you know, hoping to see a seat at the table.
LGBTQ and other organizations that are working on this diversity question as well. But I did want to make sure that that also our work takes on the question of how much why board diversity is important, but how to achieve it. And then that this is from recruiting, retention community engagement.
Understanding that the pipeline can be filled with talented board candidates. It’s just a matter of tapping into that. So, I wanted to know that that’s established just want to kind of look at this question, the board ethics and team diversity, but a lot of research out there that demonstrates that ethical decisions can are more likely to be right or at least discussed in a more complete and penetrating matter if the group discussing them has ethnic agenda person.
And this would stand to reason right you have people from you get into a group of board group where folks share common experiences common background and the socio-economic interlocking relationships. They’re all members of the same downtown club when ethical decisions or ethical policies are discussed they’re using that that similar background and similar experiences as their lens and so you will have decisions that tend to kind of follow certain paths.
As opposed to just situations where you have a group of a lot of different experiences different genders different ethnic sort of perspectives and different community kind of backgrounds and experiences, you’re going to have what the research shows to be maybe a decision process that that has a little more conflict and it might take a little longer, but that the decision. The, the outcomes will reflect greater creativity.
And frankly, according to the research, you’ll arrive at quote the right decision. So, this is defined by researchers as an ethical outcome that is aligned with the organization’s principles and the greater good. So you have to look at the research to know what that means. I want to be sure that we understand that this only works under certain conditions.
Collaboration really can help to reduce the negative impact of diversity. Again, if you see we’re going to go the other way. If you, if you’re seated at a table with people with a lot of different perspectives and backgrounds. There’s going to be that group dynamic is that has little more conflict.
So longer maybe folks don’t feel like they’re really being heard it first. And so that takes you know that takes a little more collaboration.
Under the right circumstances diversity can really lead to optimal health outcomes for example leadership at it and I think it was really important what Laurie was saying was this idea that the senior staff and board chair and they have to be committed to this so transformational leadership has got to be part of the of the ingredient.
Also, collaboration. So, if teams are working together for a common mission for the museum’s mission that tends to reduce a lot of that sort of surrounding conflict that peripheral conference those differences tend to become less important one that focuses on a common mission.
The outcome, really, that I think is important as a side of it. The final bullet here.
When you’re facing difficult decisions ethical dilemmas what to do in these crazy times have covered my team and demonstrations individuals with a lot of different perspectives.
Through this process through the ethical process or ethical decision-making process are really going to help you arrive at a more optimal outcome.
So, I want to point out what might be an uncomfortable topic. An Inconvenient Truth, if you will. And I want to refer folks to the Alliance’s facing change page on their website. It’s got some great studies and some findings from their own work as well as other researchers and I believe Laura a lot actually has been quoted as saying this, this piece in several publications 77% of museum directors, they believe that expanding ethnic diversity is important, but only 10% of their boards have actually developed a concrete plan become more inclusive, I added be the italics in it. And part of what we’re I think the question that’s pertinent to this discussion is if you believe something 77 77% of directors believe that greater racial ethnic diversity is important, but only 10% are taking action.
I would like to sort of compare that to if you believe ethics are important.
How many are actually willing to enforce those efforts monitor those analytics report on the ACT earlier.
So, I wanted, I want to posit that this is a parallel argument. And that there’s dissonance between what an organization believes or holds out as an ethical policy.
And let’s see how they act I cited a few museums and online statements regarding diversity and inclusion and just as a quick one. So, LACMA I’m here in LA. So, I pick on them 59 base. They have a wonderful statement on the website about how their exhibits and their work. They want to is informed by LA is diverse population. So, they have 59 Board of Trustees.
I know one Latino and there’s maybe one other. Now the caveat here is that I know some folks don’t have this is this is a by observing for Latino surname.
And yet at the same time, we know that that’s not always an accurate indicator, someone may not someone may have a certain type of Smith and be Latino
Conversely, someone could have a surname, that would not indicate you know whether they were working on that. But it’s generally a wash. What is what the research shows la County’s 55% went to one of our foremost museum institutions have to have a board of the National Museum of History Museum of Utah. I’m a native Yukon, so I get up to come in.
And they recognize that their strength and stability comes from stems from diversity inclusion 23 member Board of Advisors, one of the team. I know that person. So, I really do know who’s on that board so I can is 20% with 19 20% with funny or good folks down in North Texas pro Museum of Nature and Science and I get to pick on them because I went to school down there went to grad school. So, so I do know a little bit about that region.
I love their statement they strive to exhibit diversity and promote inclusion and all aspects. Including their board of directors and 37-member Board one within the DFW they like to call it the Metroplex 39% Latino, so I point this out as a distinction between what they say what the public statement is as their commitment to racial ethnic diversity inclusion.
And how they’re actually carrying that out at the board level.
And. And I would argue that that dissonance easily carry over to your commitment to ethical policy, an ethical principles that slightly case Study very quickly. And I want to do a quick disclaimer here information is somewhat limited, and we don’t know what board deliberations went into this situation. So, I want to make sure we we give them the benefit of the doubt Brooklyn Museum. As of April 2020, to $108 million endowment.
At the time, their director was quoted in art form is saying that they were staring at a $19 million loss now.
That was mostly from unrealized losses on the stock market as of today that 15% market loss has pretty much been recovered at least if you measure fighter down, but they weren’t looking at for me dollar estimate and cooperate.
They apply for and we’re given by pp loan PPP law. I don’t know the amount trying to contact the museum as you might understand folks are not available museums, because the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. At the same time, noted in an article of April 21 84% of Brooklyn businesses who applied for the same phones were declining 90% of those businesses are owned by minorities and women.
Now we all know what happened with those loans. If you are well connected if you have $108 million in investments 10 or so me and open in a cash account, you’re going to get concierge treatment when it comes to the banks and who gets the last when we get that, but I’m interested to learn. And if anybody knows, maybe they can help us understand what sort of conversations took place at that at the board level when they were considering alone.
Their neighbors, the vendors, the bodega. The dress shop down the street. We’re not getting loads. So, you look at their board is 45 member Board of Trustees from their website. I can identify three Latino the demographics of Brooklyn 35% white 35% black point. You know, you see the number. The question being, and I don’t know the answer is, what sort of discussions went into do we apply for this loan or should we dip into our and down. What else around Brooklyn could use that sort of help.
I have limited information. This is not a an indictment of the Brooklyn museums approach to the loan or their finances.
It’s just I think an interesting profile of what you know what sort of conversations can happen at the board level when you have greater participation from folks in the community and people that at least begin to reflect that demographic and that’s about all I have. Thank you so much.
Susana Bautista: Thank you, Patrick. So much for bringing to us the importance of diversity, when we do talk about ethics Laura law has said that diversity, equity inclusion and accessible ability work or about museum excellence and she said it’s a quote, moral, political, and business imperative.
So now I’d like to introduce our third speaker john wet and Dr John Wetenhall founding director of the George Washington University Museum serves on the faculty of the graduate program and museum studies as Executive Director of the john and maple Ringling Museum of Art in Florida for nearly 10 years he led 150-million-dollar capital and endowment campaign he previously participated in major renovations at the Children’s Museum of Art in Nashville in the Birmingham Museum of Art.
Having also held positions as President of the Carnegie Museum to Pittsburgh and Interim Director of the Miami Art Museum now fitness.
He’s an art historian educated at Dartmouth and Williams, with a PhD from Stanford and an MBA from Vanderbilt, he served on the boards of AAM, ICOM-US, and the Association for Academic Museums and Galleries and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Florida Association of Museums.
John unmute yourself.
John Wetenhall: Here we go.
Susana Bautista: Welcome, John.
John Wetenhall: Thank you. Thank you for inviting me to the panel I, some of you might have seen a few years ago I wrote a short article in New Zealand magazine called Why not to run your museum, more like a business.
And it always had a part two. And actually, a part three that I’ve been wanting to do and I was invited to a panel with Dunbar Noakes to actually do the part two, which is called playground for the 1% it’s meant to be an investigation and rethinking of where museum boards are today. I don’t have time to give you that paper won’t try but what I hope to do in the few minutes that are afforded me is to at least walk you through the line of argument that I’ve been thinking about certainly about ways that we might want to look at our or maybe differently and in the spirit of radical reform.
To do that though. Next slide please. First, we have to understand something simple, and that is that one of the silliest claims that can be launched against museums, is that their latest know museums are built on a voluntary model of Robin Hood transferring the sources from the rich and offering the treasures to the poor or the middle class or anyone else who wants to participate in the life of the museum.
To do this, though, museums must honor their donors. They deserve recognition appreciation access, and many are magnificently wonderful people. Notwithstanding what we read in the press.
Donors may and rightfully may designate where their gifts go they have the right to tell the museum that you may accept my gift for these purposes but independent museums may also decline them and it’s their duty decline them if they’re if they’re not commensurate with the with the museum’s values, but overall I would argue that this model is generous and inclusive as our museums. Next slide please.
Except in the boardroom. And thank you, Patrick, for that wonderful setup you gave me. So let us. What I’d like to do is have a little look at the board room and see what they look like in our field of museums. Next slide please.
How many, many board members, does it take to govern back one, to govern a museum. The AAMD did an unscientific survey is about 60 museums and found that the average is about 28.5 that is not scientific for the a D am has their national report from 2017 that survey 1300 museums. Now, most of them were small museums.
And the average is there were about 40% or 15 or fewer 60% were larger than 15 per museum board 22% of those museums. And again, including a lot of smaller museums, we’re over 25%. The takeaway from this might be this unscientific look is that the larger Museum, the more the board members. The more people serve on the board, you can think, well, it must take more people because they’re more complicated. They’re bigger institutions.
Well, is that true or not. Let’s look and would it not be fair to compare museum boards with say the most complicated businesses in America. Let’s look. Next slide please.
How many board members, does it take to run a Dell 30 company? The 13th largest companies on the stock exchange, the average is 11.36 of the largest Dow company board is 14 people Microsoft, the smallest is apple with seven
In museums, a range of large museums. I’ve seen nine and 11 I’ve seen 98 and 116 the two large ones. By the way, are in Chicago, the nine is Crystal bridges and also New Mexico, but very interesting. The 11 is one of the largest museums in America, San Diego Zoo.
Next slide please.
Wait for the next slide.
Who serves on the board?
In the S&P and major corporations, the short answer is experts CEOs of like corporations’ corporate attorneys Product Expert people who are in the business one third another quarter our financiers, who are involved in the business of the stock exchange in like corporate finance in the like.
How does that expertise, compared with the average museum board. Next slide please.
Next, Ah, my friend Steven Miller’s book the nonprofit sector in the United States is governed by amateurs.
There is very little evidence that museum expert serve on many of these boards at all.
And if this were a board of a stock exchange traded company, they would be seen as insufficient expertise to operate their companies and probably liable to shareholder action. Next slide please.
Who’s missing from the board in the Standard and Poor’s 500. And by the way, these are public companies, and their records are available in there are surveys and reports on this.
Companies today are trying to diversify their boards. This year, new board members to the S&P as of 2019 47% were women 23% were classified as minorities, according to the reports current board. The current total boards of the top 200 companies of the S&P only a quarter with women 19% were identified as minorities, how does that compare to museums. Well, the a survey reflected that in 2017. Let’s look at the next slide and see 45% of boards in America of museums were women, which is about double the stock exchange 89% though were white, which is about half of the minority representation, but the troubling statistic of that survey was 46% of boards of museums and in the AM survey of 1300 or 100% white
Let’s see. The next slide please. So, I have three questions. No one. Why does it take two or three or four times as many board members to run a museum as it takes to run a fortune 500 company?
To why his expertise in running a museum, not a requirement for anyone that governs that serves on a governing board and three, how in the public interest can museum boards represent their communities. When the members of the board. Do not resemble their communities.
Next slide please.
Know the answer. The answer is because we have been combining giving and governance and this is for good reasons, not bad.
We have been recruiting people to boards because they have business skills and can help us run the museum and because they could help us with a corporate gift.
Finance people bankers and people who can help us with the financial operations of the museum. We bring them and their banks can give us a gift legal advice and pro bono experience.
All these skills and something for us collectors. Yes, we want their knowledge of collections, and we’d like it if they give their collections to the museum’s philanthropist reversed.
We get major gifts from philanthropists, and I know from my experience, we often get really good advice. These are thoughtful.
wise people we bring to our boards good people we bring that that bring quite a bit of tools and by the way we get annual or giving annual dues gay with tickets in the light. So, the given governance, we put together.
But let’s look at something else. Remember, I started to donors have a right to direct their gifts. When you put the donor on a board, though, they not only direct the gift. They gave but they direct everybody else’s gift as well. They vote on the entire museum budgets. So, a gift of 10,000 or 100,000 or whatever it might be, creates access to leverage that gift on the entire museum budget, and that includes annual gifts of everyone else and the endowments that have been recruiting to the museum over generation.
So, they get influence in the museum budget, the strategic plan and like, over and above the influence of their own gifts to the museum.
The rationale of this is really simple that whoever pays the band calls the to the notion that board seats belong to the largest donors is hardly ever challenged. Except it’s not true.
Largest donor to the vast majority of museums in America is not automatically entitled to a board seat. Who do you think that might be you, me, and the American taxpayer. Because a third or more of the gifts that are given by donors to museums come off of their taxes that they take over the American people. The top three Tax brackets in America 32% 35% or 37% are deducted from these most of these people. I should say their gifts to museums. As are in some state and local taxes as well. So, I think financially, there is an argument. Well let’s look some further anyway. It’s a fair question. Where’s our seat. Where’s our seat on the board for that. And does it matter. I think it does. And here’s why it’s like instead, the governance model of American museums in its current form favors the recruitment of businesspersons who come from a world of competition and growth.
They increase sales and market share competing to expand their commercial enterprises to evermore buying customers. That’s what they do. Corporate values align success in museums with increased visitation program expansion cost containment, including salaries maximizing earned revenue and that includes ticket prices that rise quarter over quarter fiscal year by fiscal year. Next slide please.
Next, next please.
The purpose of our non for-profit museums, is to serve the public and to share the treasures that we hold in common trust.
We who devote our careers to museums come with values that prioritize community service scholarship learning scientific knowledge aesthetic excellence empathy fairness inclusive and a sense of wonder
We rely upon the fiduciary management of our boards to sustain our organizations in good times and bad usually accepting salaries well below those in the for-profit sector for the privilege of working on behalf of our museums ideals.
Which must center on endurance preserving our treasures to Educate, enlighten and inspire communities, year by year generation by generation. Here’s where the clash of values matter. Next slide please.
Probably the most talked about issue in recent years for museums includes diversity.
This has been an issue of fairness shining a revealing light on collections and exhibitions restricted opportunities for advancement and the lack of diversity on museum boards.
Fairness has spilled over into frustration, especially amongst emerging professionals when confronted with barriers to entry form by unpaid internships and debt inducing graduate programs necessary to attain low paint entry level jobs at higher levels, some compensation packages have been revealed to be an equitable frustration has cascaded into outrage when certain privilege members of the museum or are discovered to a funded their philanthropic gifts by selling weapons of war addictive painkillers or fossil fuels. Next slide please.
Protest petitions and amplifying the attention of the cultural media have called out toxic philanthropy.
Some individuals have been forced to resign provided providing cathartic relief. Each time a targeted culprit is outed and removed. But it’s this change or merely distraction.
I submit that the problem is not about corporate villains that corrupt the system.
But the pay to play system itself that structurally narrows the perspectives and values of their governing entities and privileges aspirations of expansion and growth.
Especially when the philanthropic catalyst of expansive exhibition ambitions comes from the leverage gifts of board members themselves may decide if we wish to unwind this tangled web of conflicting interests, we must separate giving from governance.
To do this every museum would have to have a way to honor its donors with recognition societies briefings travel and honor them and is compelling a manner as we currently pay homage to our museum boards, but as a field. I think we have to rethink what we can, what we consider best practices.
I think we should consider our sense of best practice downsizing boards to corporate norms 1112 1314 somewhere. I think we should expect expertise on museum awards including with people. I think we should eliminate or dues.
I also think we should consider recognizing the communities right to participate commensurate with the public’s contribution at least through the text system.
As long as we treat our boards like banks encouraging board expansion to fund our aspirations, however, noble and well intention. They may be we will be part of the problem.
Nobody is stopping a gates or basis from serving on using them for I’m merely proposed a balance thing with representatives of diverse segments. If a local community.
In a small enough group so that their voices may be heard and heated K through 12 educators school administrators’ academics religious leaders social service professionals civil servants, not for profit executives and yes museum professionals. There’s room for racial and ethnic diversity class differences and even a person or two from a younger generation. If only we eliminate means testing.
These are not unrealistic dreams, but reforms rooted in the best practices of corporate governance, where they pay you to serve on the board.
Cognizant of the tradition of American museums to on our patron pension and fully aware of a fiduciary obligation of museums to serve their community constituents.
I think I’ll stop there.
Susana Bautista: THANK YOU, JOHN so much for your really bold propositions that help us radically reimagine museums and museum boards. I’d like to now introduce our final speaker, Dr. Sally your coverage.
Who is director of educational exchange and special projects at the American Scandinavian foundation and adjunct professor in the MBA program in museum anthropology at Columbia University?
She serves as the chair of the professional standards and ethics committee of the American Association of State and Local History and also the icon ethics committee.
Author of a practical guide to museum ethics her work as a cultural anthropologist deals with how museums will face the ethical challenges of the future.
She held leadership positions at the National Endowment for the Humanities National Endowment for the Arts South Street, Seaport Museum, the Museum of the City of New York.
She was president and CEO of The New York, New Jersey. Historical Society executive director of the museum for African art and the first president of the tribute NYC museum.
She also worked with cultural organizations in Central and Eastern Europe leading interactive workshops on best practices for the fund for arts and culture. She currently serves on the board of the merchants House Museum in New York City. Welcome, Sally.
Sally Yerkovich: Thank you. Susanna and it’s great to be here today with such a distinguished and interesting panel coming at the end of the session and talking about ethics.
Puts me in an interesting position I had planned to talk about governance and the ethical issues that come into play relating to governance.
As well as integrity and I’ll talk briefly about those. But I also want to talk about the fact that I think it’s time that we begin to rethink our codes of ethics.
When I wrote a practical guide to museum ethics I the first chapter that I wrote was about accessibility and I looked to the guidelines to to the ethical codes of a icon AMD and as LH. And I’ve found that issues of diversity accessibility and inclusion were there. If you read very, very closely, but you had to read very closely in order to fund them.
Those issues as well as issues related to decolonization social responsibility empowering communities’ sustainability, all of those issues are in our codes of ethics, but they’re hard to find. And what that means is that they, it looks as if they have a lesser priority for us clearly right now as we face a number of really serious, serious challenges in our country. We need to make sure that the values that we believe in and the ethical principles that we espouse come first.
And don’t require the kind of digging that it requires to find these kinds of principles in our codes of ethics.
So that’s it.
I’ll talk briefly about governance and then about integrity of our institutions, when we talk about governance.
As Susanna pointed out earlier, we talked about good duties that governing boards have these are both legal and ethical issues for the governing bodies duties.
Of care loyalty and obedience are in fact legal responsibilities boards have a responsibility to ensure that a museum has it’s the policies that it means in place and that it that the museum carries out those policies to the best that it can boards have a responsibility to be loyal to the institution to ensure that the decisions that they make. Place the museum first rather than before the individual board members personal or business interests.
And finally, boards have a responsibility for obedience and obligation to make to fulfill the musician. Sorry to fulfill the mission of the museum and to make prudent choices visa v that mission.
In general, board members need to monitor their own behavior as a board and also the behavior of the board in general.
But we also need to continue to judge the board members suitability for service.
The kind of scrutiny that boards have come under was a sign that the public is also scrutinizing our boards and perhaps using a different yardstick for judging someone’s qualifications for board membership, then perhaps we have in the past.
We don’t know whether the scrutiny will continue, but we need to be prepared for it and we need to be able to think through some of the issues that may arise if the scrutiny does continue having a carefully thought-out policy concerning board membership and concerning the responsibilities of board members is a good first step also having a carefully thought out policy concerning fundraising.
Is really important and it’s important as Laurie pointed out that many of these policies are established, not just with the board, but with the staff.
In concert that because the discussions that we have when we establish these policies are really rehearsals for dealing with them or in dealing with problems when they arise.
So having had the discussions we have the language to talk about some of these issues and also to be more transparent with the public about our decision making.
In the past, museums have usually drawn a line that has been in many cases impenetrable. We would hope between the funding they receive and the programs exhibitions and scholarship that they produce. In other words, that the regardless of the funding source museums maintain control of the content and integrity of their programs, exhibitions, and activities.
The recent scrutiny of board membership tries to move this line and say that it no longer really counts that it’s that the that the money. The fact that the museum’s take money.
Is what is important and who they take and who they take the money from it doesn’t matter that we separate the funding from the programs that we do. We haven’t done a very good job of explaining that to the public. I don’t think we need to think about this line again and ask the question if the ethics of funding can be isolated from the ethics of curation. If we believe that the answer to that question is yes, we need to get better at explaining our position and explaining to the public, how we work.
If the answer is no that the ethics of funding cannot be isolated from ethics of curation, then we need to seriously rethink how we operate.
Because an answer of no means that we need to make serious changes in our funding patterns in our board membership and that will trickle down into operations throughout the institution.
So, what I would propose today, and I’ll do this very quickly because I know we’re running out of time is that we rethink the values that we are now expressing in our code of ethics that we update them and ensure that the social role of museums.
On the role of museums and empowering communities, the role of museums in de colonize interesting colonization in restitution and repatriation, the role of museum in in ensuring human rights and creating a sustainable environment.
Needs to be foregrounded as does the renewed responsibility of trustees in helping us achieve these goals.
Susana Bautista: Thank you so much. Sally.
Thank you, um, I’d like to ask everyone to unmute themselves. And I know we just have a couple minutes left. But there were a lot of questions in the chat room about non senior level staff non-executive staff and how can they make a difference. So, I know Laura you responded, but if anyone has any.
Comments about that because everyone wants to make a difference. But a lot of times it’s really only the CEO or the executive director that gets the connection with the board. So, what can everyone else do feel free to just jump in.
Lori Fogarty: Some of what I responded was really about beginning with ways to find ways for board and staff to do more directly engage with one another.
And I’ve seen that Really Work through strategic planning processes if an institution is launching a strategic planning process to really encourage there to be both board and staff representation and involvement on committees and task forces and working groups, which I think provides a great opportunity.
And even advocating for board members to come to staff meetings or staff gatherings. I think there’s a whole kind of demystification of the board that needs to happen with staff and vice versa.
John Wetenhall: I can give you one quick idea, and that is when years ago when I was working with the Ringling Museum. We used to have a during lunchtime. We invited staff members to come in for five-minute briefings on what they did. As far as Museum, the water people and they were spectacular and board members didn’t really know that passion and knowledge. The work that people do behind the scenes and simply giving people stammers opportunities to learn more they became more of a team together with the board. I think it’s a it’s wonderful opportunities like that it can bring staff in order to understand one another better. And the more we can do that, the better.
Sally Yerkovich: I would say to that it’s not just in strategic planning, but in the development and review of a number of our policies, it’s important to involve the staff in those discussions and for the board members to hear why we do what we do and how we do it.
Susana Bautista: Yeah, I think we also recognize me to recognize this.
All of the recent trend in in museums wanting to unionize. And that really is a reflection of the staff wanting to have a voice and wanting to have more a participation and a say in what happens at museums, whether it’s equity of salaries or anything else do you know, and we can see right now in the protest, people want to have a voice. People want to be heard.
And so, I think if we, if we take what’s happening and we all want to promote peaceful protests, you know, I encourage museum staff. I encourage that at all levels.
Have a voice be heard, whether it’s to your supervisor, whether it’s your department head. Make sure that what is important to you is heard to to others at the museum peaceful protest.
So, I think we are over. Now we’re out of time. Again, thank you everyone. This was a really important discussion important topic and we tackled it from all different perspectives and so I’m sorry we didn’t have enough time for Q AMP. A but we put some of our emails there. So please contact us and continue the discussion and have a wonderful day. Thank you.