Chicago museum fires all of it's mostly White female, financially well-off docents for lack of diversity

From WWW.FOXNEWS.COM

The Art Institute of Chicago fired all of its trained volunteers and guides last month, who were mostly older White women, to diversify its team.

"We were surprised, we were disappointed," Gigi Vaffis, president of the docent council, said in an interview with radio station WBEZ of the firings. "There is an army of very highly skilled docents that are willing and ready and able to continue with arts education."

The Art Institute used to have more than 100 docents, 82 of whom were active, until an executive director of learning and engagement, Veronica Stein, sent an email on Sept. 3 firing them all, the Wall Street Journal reported. Docents are trained volunteers who lead tours of museums, and at the Art Institute, they averaged 15 years of unpaid service.

The firings were apparently sparked by the fact that most of the docent staff was composed of older White, financially well-off women, the outlet reported. Stein said that the museum needed to take a new path "in a way that allows community members of all income levels to participate, responds to issues of class and income equity, and does not require financial flexibility."

The fired docents were offered a two-year free pass to the museum as gratitude for their previous service.

The institute is one of America’s oldest and largest museums, with its docent program launching in 1961 as part of an initiative of the Woman’s Board and the Junior League of Chicago.

The docents sent a letter on Sept. 13  detailing the staff "engaged in eighteen months of twice-a-week training to qualify as a docent, five years of continual research and writing to meet the criteria of 13 museum content areas, and monthly and bi-weekly trainings to further educate ourselves with the materials, processes and cultural context" of the museum’s pieces.

"It was nearly a full-time job," Dietrich Klevorn, a docent since 2012, told the Wall Street Journal. "We had to spend a lot of time physically in the museum studying works of art, researching, putting tours together."

"We had to be very comprehensive about everything as we talked with them, moving through the space," she said. Klevorn was the only docent to speak on the record to WSJ, after the museum reportedly requested they not speak to the media.... (Read more)

Submitted 51 days ago


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