Project Diversity Apprenticeship Program
Funder  Institute of Museum and Library Services
MuseumOps Team Member Richard Cherry
Grant $839,816
Location The Broad, 221 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012
  • Category: .................. diversity inclusion innovation leadership operations
  • Rich's passion for innovation goes far beyond technology and inflects all of his work, from championing diversity and inclusion through programs at both BPOC and The Broad, to shaking up some of the long-established norms of museum operations. - Heather Hart, Vice President of Information Technology, The Huntington

In its inaugural year, The Broad attracted more than 820,000 visitors. This put it in the top 80 art museums worldwide in terms of annual attendance and in the top 15 U.S. art museums in 2015.

The Broad’s visitors reflect the diversity of Southern California and the dynamism of contemporary art with 62 percent of visitors identifying their ethnicity as other than Caucasian, compared with a national art museum average of 23 percent [Morey Group, 2015 National Art Museum Benchmark Report]. The average visitor to The Broad is 33 years old—more than 12 years younger than the national art museum average.

This diversity was not an accident – it was intended. By proposing to have free general admission and supporting marketing efforts in areas of the city and on demographics not normally reached by art museums, Rich worked hard to encourage the museum to attract a more diverse audience. He also successfully supported efforts to ensure the VSA floor staff were as diverse as their audience.

However, Rich and his team knew that there was still a sharp divide between administrative, managerial, and collections staff – and the “front line” visitor services staff. Although the hourly, part-time VSA positions reflected the majority of the museum’s diversity, the management and collections care staff was much less culturally diverse.

With the support form his Director, and by drawing upon his experience creating cultural equity at previous jobs, Rich looked for opportunities to increase cultural equity in jobs that could eventually lead to more full-time staff and management opportunities at The Broad and beyond.

In most museums, there is a small team of staff preparators that handle the day to day collection related work. This team is often supported by a very skilled set of freelance art handlers that help with major exhibits, special projects, and other intermittent collection related work. As freelancers, they move between museums for each exhibition. When then The Broad was preparing to open, it had a large contingent of freelance preparator staff for moving the collection into the museum and installing the art in the gallery. The Broad was using these freelancers to assist in the gallery cleaning after opening. As the museum reduced the freelancers, Rich asked Julia to augment her team from the very diverse existing museum VSA team as well as contract cleaning staff that the museum already employed and train them as apprentice prep staff who could support the more experienced prep staff on small projects.

When Julia proposed creating an additional intern position to allow her to increase the diversity of her team, Rich encouraged her to think bigger. He helped her envision and pilot a preparators’ apprentice program for which he later led the effort to grow into a full outreach program by submitting a National Leadership Grant from the IMLS, which was funded at $839,816. This grant then allowed the museum to hire ethnically diverse skilled workers with experience in trades like construction, rigging, shipping, and fabrication. These skills were directly applicable to those required by a preparator. The project took advantage of the fact that preparators ar4ein the unique position of being able to move into leadership roles without necessarily needing a college degree, and so the DAP pilot program began by tapping into communities for which such requirements had been inaccessible.

Rich and his team also sought to leverage their experience with the VSA team training and create a centralized online resource for best practices in art handling in addition to drafting hiring guidelines and best practices for building cultural equity and an inclusive work environment that could be implemented and replicated via the online learning management system.

The grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services was one of only 11 National Leadership Grants for Museums awarded by the institute in 2017 and today. It opens doors for underrepresented communities in the arts, including women, African American, Latinx, Asian American, Native American, Pacific Islander, LGBTQIA+, and those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged.

As of the fall of 2019, 100% of program participants successfully obtained full-time employment in museums!