Rosa Rodriguez-Williams. Photo: MFA Boston.

MFA Boston Names Rosa Rodriguez-Williams First Director of Belonging and Inclusion

Following a disturbing 2019 racial incident within its confines, and just four months after it reached an agreement with the state attorney general on how to foster inclusion and diversity, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston has named Rosa Rodriguez-Williams its first senior director of belonging and inclusion. In her new position, Rodriguez-Williams “will play a critical role in delivering on the MFA’s promise to be a museum for all of Boston,” the institution says.

The museum came under fire following a spring 2019 incident in which a group of visiting middle school children, all students of color, reported that a staff member admonished them, “No food, no drink, and no watermelon.” The young visitors also reported being followed by a security guard and being the brunt of a white patron’s audible racist invective. The students left “feeling disrespected, harassed and targeted because of the color of their skin.”

In May the MFA Boston agreed to put forth new diversity policies; to launch a $500,000 fund earmarked for diversity and inclusion initiatives; to establish a clear process for facilitating complaints regarding racism and discrimination; and to build connections with communities of color through programming and exhibitions.

The Puerto Rico–born Rodriguez-Williams, who will assume her post at MFA Boston on September 9, previously served as director of the Latinx Student Cultural Center at Northeastern University, where she focused on retaining Latino students. She holds a BA in sociology from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and an MA in social work from the Boston College Graduate School of Social Work.

Rodriguez-Williams “will be integral in reimagining how we welcome and engage historically underrepresented audiences, truly reflecting the communities we serve,” said museum director Matthew Teitelbaum in a statement. “This is one of the most important issues for museums in the twenty-first century.”