Last year, Boston’s famous Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) made national headlines because it was accused of racism after Black middle school students said they were mistreated by museum staff. A staff member allegedly told the students: “No food, no drink and no watermelon.”
That wasn’t the end the debacle. The principal leading the group of students accused museum security guards of only following students of color while leaving white kids alone.
The negative attention and national outrage pushed MFA director Matthew Teitelbaum to publicly apologize. The museum also banned two visitors, launched an internal investigation and hired a law firm led by a former state attorney general to conduct an independent review, according to the Associated Press.
On top of that, Teitelbaum created a new position — senior director of inclusion — and gave an entire wing to female artists. This month, MFA will let people in for for free to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
“It’s not a secret that this museum doesn’t serve folks who are black and brown,” Makeeba McCreary, the MFA’s chief of learning and community engagement, told the Associated Press. “We know enough to know that’s not who we want to be.”
McCreary also has been leading a series of discussions at MFA about racial diversity.
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the museum will have an exhibition only with artists of color. In 2020, there will be a community mural project and a free first-year membership program to make the museum more accessible to low-income people. Since the opening of the museum in 1870 until recently, MFA has been an ode to mostly white, wealthy men and artists.
But the group Lawyers for Civil Rights told the Associated Press that they thought the museum wasn’t doing enough and should offer mental health services for the students who reported the racism.