$500K Grant Intended To Boost Black Representation In Lucrative Arts World

$500K Grant Intended To Boost Black Representation In Lucrative Arts World

In the multibillion-dollar arts world, Black Americans have been largely left out from participating more in that business. That is a big deal when considering the size of the trade or profession. The value of the U.S. art market was around $30.2 billion in 2022, based on data from market researcher Statista. 

For this report, “arts” refers to the broader industry of artists, museums, cultural institutions, employees and supporters, collectors, and audiences.

To help boost industry diversity, the University of Delaware (UD) and the Alliance of HBCU Museums and Galleries (the Alliance) this year were awarded a $500,000 grant from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation. This funding will more than double the capacity of UD’s Department of Art Conservation’s summer program for 2023 and 2024, increasing it to 10 students from four.

The funding will help cover students’ transportation and housing costs and include a stipend to help minimize their expenses. The award expands the program that UD has offered with the Alliance since 2017.

The six-week internship program allows students to work closely in conservation laboratories with professionals in the field. The internships will expose students to the conservation departments at major U.S. arts institutions, accelerating career growth through networking opportunities.

Generally, becoming a conservator requires many hours of practical experience. Students often take unpaid internships or volunteer their time to reach that status, something typically not an option for students from low-to-moderate-income neighborhoods. An art conservator mainly analyzes and restores different art objects and artifacts so they can last for a long time.

There is a lack of art conservation programs available at U.S. universities, particularly at HBCUs. The fresh effort aims to connect students at HBCUs and minority-serving institutions to gain hands-on field experience and link with major U.S. museums and cultural institutions.

Brian Siegel, SVP, Global Arts, Culture & Heritage Executive, Bank of America, offered some perspective via email. He shared that while a lot has historically been done to celebrate diverse art, less attention has been paid to ensuring that the arts appeal to new and diverse audiences.

He added that museums and other cultural institutions have historically been slower than other industries in creating opportunities for diverse employees – especially in some of the more specialized areas, such as curation and art conservation.

Here are students enrolled in or recently graduated from HBCUs and minority-serving institutions participating in the 2023 summer program.

Students Participating University/Alma Mater Conservation Partner:

April Lacey,  Fisk University, Yale University

Sinclair Strong, Fisk University, Yale University

Darius Scott, Howard University, Brooklyn Museum

Starr A. Smith, Xavier University, Brooklyn Museum

Dominique Golden, The University of Tampa, Winterthur

Dorian Henry, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Winterthur

Gabrielle Hilliard, North Carolina Central University, Smithsonian American Art Museum

Robert Killins III, Tuskegee University, Fisk University

Shamica A. Terry, Lincoln University, Fisk University

Joyce G. Vázquez Villanueva, Interamerican University of Puerto Rico, Smithsonian American Art Museum