Toledo Museum of Art launches strategy that centers on belonging
“A place for the benefit of all the people of Toledo” is a commitment embedded in the founding charter of the Toledo Museum of Art (TMA). On Aug. 3, TMA published its belonging plan, an operational strategy that articulates how diversity, equity, access and inclusion (DEAI) are integral to the Museum’s strategic plan. The new resource outlines actions and outcomes that will guide TMA.
“Art museums continuously strive to become meaningful and accessible experiences for everyone,” said Adam M. Levine, the Museum’s Edward Drummond and Florence Scott Libbey director and CEO. “At the Toledo Museum of Art, following our belonging plan will help us contribute to those efforts. The Toledo Museum of Art’s mission is to integrate art into the lives of people. To have those impactful, art-filled experiences with the Museum, potential visitors need to feel invited in the first place. This plan activates the promise we’ve made to our community—that you have a place here, exactly as you are.”
While the plan was officially released this summer, efforts to ensure a sense of belonging were already underway at TMA. In January 2021, the Museum partnered with local strategy consulting firm JAYRAMON LLC and engaged key stakeholders through community listening sessions that were integral to the final plan. TMA also created a department dedicated to belonging and community engagement.
Rhonda Sewell, the Museum’s inaugural director of belonging and community engagement, joined the team in April 2021. With the belonging plan, her first major initiative in this role, she acknowledges that accountability is essential to success. “Nurturing an authentic culture of belonging at TMA is central to becoming the model art museum in this country,” said Sewell. “This actionable plan holds all of us accountable to offer our community measurable outcomes that intentionally demonstrate a commitment to DEAI principles throughout the organization.”
Katie Shelley also joined TMA’s new department of belonging and community engagement as its inaugural manager of access initiatives, a position developed in partnership with The Ability Center of Greater Toledo. Together, the department and Museum staff are making progress on several belonging-related initiatives, including:
Growing the curatorial team to expand TMA’s ability to tell new stories and highlight diverse perspectives
- Within the past year, the Museum has hired Erin Corrales-Diaz as curator of American art, Robert Schindler as the William Hutton curator of European art and Lanisa Kitchiner as consulting curator of African art, and is in the process of hiring consulting curators of both Asian and Native American art.
Significant acquisitions that broaden the narrative of art history
- Driven by the expanded curatorial team, women artists and artists of color from contemporary as well as historical periods are represented strongly in Museum acquisitions.
Expanding active outreach efforts to meet people where they are—especially those living in neighborhoods near the Museum
- In 2021, the Museum was awarded a grant from ProMedica through the Greater Toledo Community Foundation to expand outreach efforts in the largely underserved Junction neighborhood. The growing program has brought artmaking experiences to approximately 2,500 individuals in this neighborhood so far.
Equipping TMA staff with enhanced resources, training and continued education around DEAI
- John Stanley, former director of the Toledo Museum of Art, and Ann Hartmann, longtime Museum supporter, generously gave separate planned gifts that total $2.5 million for employee professional development and engagement.
The plan also includes belonging initiatives that impact employees at all levels and further the Museum’s commitment to be an employer of choice. Current efforts include total compensation increases of 23% in two years, an organization-wide minimum wage increase of 35% since 2020 and the institution of 12-weeks of paid parental leave.
The board of directors unanimously approved the belonging plan.
“This plan speaks directly to the vision of the Toledo Museum of Art that fuels our passionate board of directors,” said Randy Oostra, TMA board chair. “The unanimous approval of the plan demonstrates the board’s full support of the Museum’s efforts to ensure that every person has a welcoming experience.”
To learn more about the belonging plan, visit toledomuseum.org/belonging-plan.