Oct 1, 2021 - News
Leading Twin Cities art institutions get more diverse
Seena Hodges of the Walker, Chris Harrington of the Ordway, and Alejandra Peña-Gutiérrez of Weisman.
Seena Hodges of the Walker, Chris Harrington of the Ordway, and Alejandra Peña-Gutiérrez of Weisman. Photos courtesy of Hodges, Harrington and Peña-Gutiérrez

Three major Twin Cities arts institutions recently announced their new leaders will be people of color for the first time in their history.

Why it matters: Museum collections have long underrepresented artists of color. An estimated 85% of artists represented in U.S. museums are white, according to a 2019 study.

  • And the Twin Cities arts scene has struggled to keep diverse leadership.
  • "We've heard and seen and engaged with a lot of the same stories and narratives," Seena Hodges, the Walker Art Center's next president of the board of trustees, told Audrey. "It's really time for us to broaden our own perspectives and listen to folks who historically haven't been able to have the platform."

Driving the news: Hodges was elected to lead the Minneapolis art museum's board in September. She's the first African American and person of color to hold the position at the institution formally established more than 90 years ago.

  • Meanwhile, St. Paul's 36-year-old performing arts venue, the Ordway, hired Chris Harrington as its first Black president and CEO last month.
  • Mexican cultural leader Alejandra Peña-Gutiérrez will be the first Latina and person of color to serve as executive director for the Weisman Art Museum. The museum was founded in 1934.

Between the lines: A focus on more diversity in the arts isn't just happening at the top ranks either. A number of local institutions have invested in hiring and other initiatives this year to increase diversity and elevate underrepresented communities.

  • Minneapolis Institute of Art, the state's largest art museum, announced in June it's adding a diversity and inclusion manager and hiring its first-ever curator of Latin American art.
  • The Guthrie Theater, which has acknowledged being a predominantly white institution, laid out plans to "expand the diversity of our work on and off the stage." In May, the theater partnered with the newly formed MN Black Theatre Circle for the Blackness Is...Art Festival, a three-day showcase of Black performers.

What's next: Harrington, Peña-Gutiérrez and Hodges will all be in their positions by the end of the year, spokespeople from the Ordway and Weisman confirmed.

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