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The Baltimore Museum of Art. Photo: Eli Pousson/Wikipedia Commons.
The Baltimore Museum of Art. Photo: Eli Pousson/Wikipedia Commons.

Baltimore Museum of Art Receives $150K Grant to Research Museum Structures

The Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) has received $150,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in support of a multi-year project aimed at reimagining the museum through the lens of equity and diversity. Dubbed the Mellon Initiative, the project will investigate through a series of interviews with artists, program partners, local leaders, and constituents the ways in which the museum could better serve the surrounding community.

“Through the Mellon Initiative, we’re seeking to engage the critical conversations, debates, and creative imaginings about the future that are happening in museums,” said BMA chief education officer Gamynne Guillotte in a statement, pointing to the importance of public discourse and noting that “many art museums are grappling with issues both inherited and novel to their place and time, and often those debates happen within the walls of the institution, out of the view of the many publics that museums serve.”

The initiative, which invites participants to consider “what form a museum would take if an institution was reconceived from scratch,” responds to a plan put in place by the BMA in 2018, focused on reevaluating the museum’s exhibitions, programming, and staff and board operations with an eye to fostering inclusiveness. That plan has led the BMA to investigate its own practices and saw the museum in 2019 open a branch at the Lexington Market, a popular gathering place considered a social and cultural crossroads; the following year, BMA launched two digital initiatives bringing the work of local artist to wider audiences.

“The entrenched systems upon which museums were built and continue to exist today are not suited to actualizing change, in part because they are not designed to listen to, connect with, and engage communities. As a result, museums are failing to embrace, reflect, and serve a diverse public,” said BMA director Christopher Bedford in a statement, noting that the museum had not yet made the “radical changes” it had hoped to upon the unveiling of its 2018 plan. Bedford lauded the Mellon Initiative as “an exciting opportunity to further our vision by asking and exploring challenging questions in service to creating a better, equitable, and more thoughtful museum.”

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