McNay Art Museum Among Recipients of Leadership in Art Museums Grants

by Jessica Fuentes May 7, 2023

Earlier this week, the Mellon Foundation, in partnership with the Alice L. Walton Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and Pilot House Philanthropy, announced over $11 million in funding to museums to increase racial equity in leadership roles. The foundations have selected 19 museums to receive funding, including the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio.

A photograph of the exterior of the McNay Art Museum.

The McNay Art Museum

The coalition of foundations has created the Leadership in Art Museums initiative, which is granting the $11 million over the next five years. The funding is intended to support racial equity in various positions, including curators, conservators, collections managers, community engagement staff, educators, and other senior leadership roles. The LAM grants are intended to provide seed funding to launch these new positions, however, the selected museums have also pledged to make the positions permanent, beyond the duration of the grant period.

In the press release, the Mellon Foundation cited a 2019 study that found “only 1.2% of works in all major U.S. museums were created by Black artists, with 9% for Asian artists and only 2.8% for Hispanic and Latinx artists.”

Alice Walton, philanthropist and founder of the Alice L. Walton Foundation, explained, “Ultimately, the future of museums depends on their ability to stay relevant and serve their communities. The LAM museums represent a variety of regions across the U.S., and help ensure that we’re increasing access to museum roles in a way that’s inclusive of communities of color, no matter where the art institution is based.” 

Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, echoed these sentiments, stating,“If we want the arts in this country to stay vibrant, moving, and transformational, it’s imperative that these institutions bring in more diverse perspectives and lived experiences. Leadership in Arts Museum’s vision is to grow and invest in diverse leadership at U.S. art museums to ensure their excellence and relevance in the future.” 

Separately, the McNay Art Museum announced that the funding will support its creation of a curatorial position focused on Latinx art. This curator will work to expand the museum’s collection of artworks by Latinx artists, and will organize exhibitions featuring works by artists of Hispanic and Latinx descent.

Matthew McLendon, McNay director and CEO remarked, “We are grateful to the Leadership in Art Museums partners for their transformational commitment to advancing the diversity, relevance and resonance of museums by better reflecting the communities they serve. Latinx artists are historically underrepresented in museums across the country, and it is our responsibility to strengthen the reflection of the San Antonio community in all that we do.”

While some Texas museums like the San Antonio Museum of Art, the Blanton Museum of Art, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston have maintained curators of Latin American Art since 1985, 1988, and 2001 respectively, other Texas museums only recently created these roles. In 2019, the Dallas Museum of Art hired Mark A. Castro as its first curator of Latin American art.

As San Antonio is a majority Hispanic/Latino city, this new position is an important step for the McNay. This announcement also comes on the heels of the Blanton’s appointment of Dr. Claudia Zapata as Associate Curator of Latino Art, with funds from Advancing Latinx Art in Museums, an initiative created by the Mellon Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Getty Foundation, and the Terra Foundation for American Art. 

Other museums across the U.S. who have received the LAM grant include Arizona State University Art Museum in Phoenix, Arizona; the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens in Jacksonville, Florida; The Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, Massachusetts; the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts; MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts; the Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson, Mississippi; the Museum of the City of New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, Illinois; the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, California; The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri; The Newark Museum of Art; the Oakland Museum of California; the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts; the Perez Art Museum in Miami, Florida; the Portland Art Museum in Portland, Oregon; the Riverside Art Museum in Riverside, California; the Saint Louis Art Museum; and Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience in Seattle, Washington.

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