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Akron Art Museum in Ohio. Photo: OZinOH/Flickr.

Former Board President of the Akron Art Museum Calls for Replacement of Director

After previous allegations of mismanagement resurfaced at the Akron Art Museum in Ohio, Richard Rogers, a former trustee of the institution and an ex-board president, penned an open letter on Thursday calling for the replacement of director Mark Masuoka, who has run the museum since 2013. According to Cleveland’s the Plain Dealer, Rogers, who gave the institution more than $2 million to build its Bud and Susie Rogers Garden, felt compelled to speak out “after watching the tragedy at the Akron Art Museum unfold in the national and local press, seeing the recent feeble and defensive response to the public, and learning that the plans are to keep the leadership team in place.”

Rogers’s statement follows a report in Artnews outlining complaints that were presented to the museum in the form of an anonymous letter organized by twenty-seven employees last June. The document, which was addressed to the board of directors, accused Masuoka and the former director of special projects, Jennifer Shipman, of creating a “pervasive culture of race and gender discrimination and bullying which have resulted in a dysfunctional work environment and severely unhealthy turnover rate.” Masuoka has declined to provide a comment to the media, and Shipman has maintained that the allegations are “simply not true.” 

The museum hired Kastner Westman & Wilkins to look into the accusations, and the law firm concluded its investigation in August 2019. In a statement provided to Artforum about the firm’s recommendations, the museum said: “Where appropriate, actions were taken to address any substantiated concerns. Akron Art Museum does not publicly comment on personnel matters and we will have no further comment on the investigation, its findings or actions taken.”

On Monday, the museum’s current board president, Drew Engles, sent a letter to museum members that said “prompt, appropriate, and specific actions were then taken by the museum board to comprehensively and directly address any substantiated allegations.’’ However, Rogers claims that the board “ignored the pleas of their staff and advice from past funders and trustees” and said that, as a result, careers have been ruined, staff morale is at an all-time low, and the museum’s reputation is at stake.

“Pretending that everything is fine with the museum is not working,” he said. “Changes need to be made. Somebody needs to have the courage to make them, as painful as that may be.”

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