The Black Trustee Alliance for Art Museums (BTA) has partnered with Ithaka S+R to examine the experiences and demographics of art museum trustees from museums in the US, Canada, and Mexico. Through a shared interest in representation in the arts, BTA and Ithaka S+R fielded the Art Museum Trustee Survey to board members in the fall of 2021. This survey was distributed to 287 art museums across North America. We had one or more respondents from 134 institutions, resulting in a 47 percent institutional response rate. For 83 of these museums at least one Black trustee responded. Following the survey, researchers conducted interviews with 20 Black art museum trustees, which provided valuable qualitative evidence of their experiences as board members. This report draws on survey analysis from over 900 respondents, as well as a synthesis of trustee interviews.
The report investigates the characteristics, roles, and experiences of Black trustees in North American art museums: characteristics include demographics, professional backgrounds, and interests; roles include contributions and committee assignments and experiences include reflections on board and museum culture, onboarding experiences, and navigating controversies.
HOW TO USE THIS REPORT
This report is a tool intended to relate the characteristics, experiences, and roles of Black trustees currently serving on art museum boards. By blending quantitative survey data and qualitative interviews, we hope to present readers with several ideas to spark discussion within their museum boards. The survey data is designed to give museum directors and trustees a broad overview of the demographic characteristics and general experiences of museum trustees. We recognize the broad diversity, not only of the Black trustees who participated in this study, but also the museums and communities that they represent. Region, culture, budget, and size are some of the many factors that may affect how the findings of this report are applied. These trends should encourage trustees to consider how their boards and board experiences compare; what issues resonate; and what dynamics and nuances, spoken and unspoken, might shape the inner workings of their boards. The trustee perspectives, representing summaries of in-depth interviews conducted with trustees, are designed to capture some of the mechanisms, useful practices, and lessons learned from museum trusteeship.
It is also important to note that this report highlights the perspectives of Black trustees who remain engaged in their museum boards and committees and does not include the reflections or sentiment of trustees who are no longer serving on art museum boards. We hope that boards will draw out themes and craft questions for discussion inspired by what they read in the report, and that this might encourage boards to reflect and reimagine how they work together.