The one-year program is designed to give underrepresented groups opportunities to experience museum work firsthand.
American art museums celebrate a diverse range of painting, sculpture, and other creative disciplines. But that diversity isn’t always reflected in the leadership of those who operate the museums: According to Christine Anagnos, executive director of the American Association of Museum Directors, “research has consistently shown that fewer than 20 percent of art museum leadership positions are held by people of Asian, Black, Hispanic, Native American, or multiracial backgrounds.”
To address that shortcoming, AAMD has announced a pilot program to provide paid internships to students from underrepresented backgrounds. AAMD will help select up to 10 students, who will be connected with a mentor and provided with a $6,300 stipend for a 12-week internship next year.
“In order to be a diverse institution, you need to accept diverse views.”
AAMD Program Director Stephanie Yao said the association was motivated to launch the internship program in response to research on diversity in the field, as well as past tests with internship programs, such as a collaboration with the United Negro College Fund two years ago. “From that collaboration and from a multitude of conversations held during the AAMD’s semi-annual conferences, AAMD knew that there was a real need in the field and in our member museums to be able to expose students from underrepresented backgrounds to the number of professional museum careers that are possible in departments such as education, development, marketing, public programming, etc,” she said.
Last year, AAMD received a $70,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to fund the new program, which is also supported by AAMD and participating museums, though Yao said the association has not had to adjust staffing to administer the new program. “Diversity, inclusion, equity, and access is a core value for AAMD, and we have been planning for this process for some time,” she said.
The main focus of the program is on the interns, who will be assigned to complete at least one project during the course of their internships. The scope of the internship is intentionally wide, Anagnos told the publication Artnet, to encourage a breadth of applicants. “We felt it was important to encourage individuals with experiences and expertise that are not typically associated with museum studies or art history degrees,” she said. “This may mean that the candidate has a different perspective and view—but in order to be a diverse institution, you need to accept diverse views.”
AAMD isn’t just studying interns, though. It’s also gauging the participation of its 242 member museums—the association is soliciting applications from host museums through mid-September, and AAMD will study that engagement as well as the interns’ experience as it decides whether to continue the program.
“Success will be measured based on how many museums apply to be host institutions, and from written reports submitted by both the institution and their AAMD intern assessing the program, the goals, and outcomes of the internship,” said Yao.