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Diane Jean-Mary Appointed Executive Director of Black Trustees Alliance for Art Museums, Group Aims to Transform Museums into More Equitable Institutions

THE BLACK TRUSTEES ALLIANCE for Art Museums (BTA) is welcoming Diane Jean-Mary as its next executive director. Jean-Mary was previously an executive at LaPlaca Cohen, an arts consultancy where she worked with art museums and cultural institutions on strategic vision, organizational development, and socio-cultural impact.

The Black Trustees Alliance is committed to Black representation in art museums across staffing and leadership; exhibitions, acquisitions, and programming; and even vendors and contractors. BTA members sit on the boards of art museums throughout North America. These boards are charged with governing museums and shaping their direction.

“I have admired BTA’s work since its founding in 2020—the very idea that an organization could root itself in the power and influence of Black people is incredible,” Jean-Mary told Culture Type by email. “Now, in 2023, as many of the field-wide commitments to racial justice have gone unfulfilled, BTA’s advocacy is even more vital.”

Jean-Mary is succeeding Brooke A. Minto, BTA’s inaugural executive director who stepped down earlier this year after being named executive director and CEO of the Columbus Museum of Art.

 


Diane Jean-Mary is incoming executive director of the Black Trustees Alliance for Art Museums. She starts Aug. 8. | Photo by Ashley Landgraf, Courtesy Diane Jean-Mary

 

BTA IS CO-CHAIRED by Raymond J. McGuire, chair of The Studio Museum in Harlem Board of Trustees, and Victoria Rogers, who is a member of the board of trustees at the Brooklyn Museum. Rogers headed up the search committee charged with identifying the new executive director.

“Diane has made an impact at the frontlines of social and cultural change. She is the visionary and strategic leader we need to steward the next phase of BTA, as we expand beyond building community amongst Black trustees to supporting transformation within the museums they serve,” Rogers said in the appointment announcement.

McGuire added: “Diane is that rare talent who can lead and shape the narrative at this important moment of debate on racial and social representation within the cultural world.”

Jean-Mary brings more than 12 years of experience as an organizational strategist and public speaker to BTA. Most recently, she was an independent strategy consultant. During her tenure at LaPlaca Cohen (2018-2022), she rose to partner and chief strategy officer. Among her projects, Jean-Mary initiated Culture Track, a research platform that addresses the most pressing challenges in the cultural and creative economies. She is also co-author of a forthcoming data study conducted by Museums Moving Forward that focuses on workplace equity and organizational culture in U.S. art museums.

She earned a B.A., degree in economics and Latin American/Caribbean studies, with a concentration in film studies, from Columbia University.

“I have admired BTA’s work since its founding in 2020—the very idea that an organization could root itself in the power and influence of Black people is incredible.” — Diane Jean-Mary

THE STATED MISSION of the Black Trustees Alliance is “to transform art museums into more equitable and excellent spaces of cultural engagement by harnessing the power of Black trustees.”

The New York, nonprofit grew out of a convening led by influential philanthropic leaders. Ford Foundation President Darren Walker and Mellon Foundation President Elizabeth Alexander, along with Thelma Golden, director and chief curator of The Studio Museum in Harlem, met with a selection of museum trustees at the height of global calls for racial justice following the police killing of George Floyd.

The group came together to discuss equity and representation in the wake of significant public complaints from curators and other staff members about racism and toxic work environments at an array of art museums.

Shortly thereafter, with seed funding from the Ford Foundation, key trustees developed a strategic plan for an organization, launching the Black Trustees Alliance in August 2020.

Since its founding, membership has grown to 130 members representing 78 institutions, according to BTA. The alliance provides trustees with a network of community and support, conducts original research and collaborates with partners on data-driven tools, and develops communications strategies to amplify its mission and collective voice.

The short period since the organization was established has coincided with historic change at art museums with an unprecedented number of Black trustees elevated to board leadership. Current appointments include Denise B. Gardner, chair, Art Institute of Chicago; Edward E. Greene, president, Museum of Fine Art Boston; Geovette E. Washington, chair, Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh; Warren R. Colbert, chair, Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Fla.; and James D. Thornton, chair, Baltimore Museum of Art.

“Diane…is the visionary and strategic leader we need to steward the next phase of BTA, as we expand beyond building community amongst Black trustees to supporting transformation within the museums they serve.”
— BTA Co-Chair Victoria Rogers

JEAN-MARY OFFICIALLY BEGINS her new role at the Black Trustees Alliance on Aug. 8. She plans to hit the ground running and shared her priorities with Culture Type.

“In this next phase of BTA’s evolution, we’re focused on defining our areas of greatest impact as an organization, galvanizing our Trustee members to be effective advocates in their institutions, and deploying insights to inform the field at large,” Jean-Mary said.

“These priorities are ultimately in service to BTA’s mission of amplifying Black voices in the cultural landscape—a north star for me as I shape BTA’s strategic direction moving forward.” CT

 

FIND MORE about Diane Jean-Mary on her website

 

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