How do we diversify curatorial and management staff at art museums?

In November 2017, the Walton Family Foundation and Ford Foundation announced that they were each committing funds to support creative solutions to diversify curatorial and management staff at art museums across the United States. Museum of contemporary Art Santa Barbara is one of 20 museums involved in the Diversifying Art Museum Leadership Initiative (DAMLI) with one answer to the above question, with the program: Emerging Leaders in the Arts.

Emerging Leaders in the Arts

Emerging Leaders in the Arts (ELA), a program conceived of and facilitated by Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara (MCASB) and funded by the Walton Family Foundation and the Ford Foundation, demonstrates to young individuals who identify as people of color that pursuing and securing curatorial and museum leadership roles is not only possible but achievable and necessary in order to preserve and elevate the cultural perspectives of our rapidly-changing diverse local community and beyond. By providing a content-rich year long professional development program for existing MCASB interns, junior staff members, and local college and high school students, the Museum intends to outline a pathway toward curatorial and museum leadership for underrepresented sectors of our community.

This initiative allows for a functional and adaptable structure that includes:

  • Two-hour, seminar -style sessions twice a month and two half-day retreats for in-depth individual work
  • Field trips to Los Angeles and San Francisco to visit museums, galleries and art spaces and to meet with museum staff
  • Cultural-competency training and expert facilitation and coaching in partnership with Just Communities
  • Peer benchmarking and field research via group travel
  • Professional development training focusing specifically on pursuing a career in curatorial or museum management
  • Independent study and an annual end-of-year practicum to be adjudicated by senior staff and appropriate collaborating partners
  • Annual stipends
  • Annual meet-ups for ELA alumni

2018 ELA Fellows

The ELA fellows from 2018 were local to Santa Barbara and have been previously connected to MCASB in various capacities. The high school students involved have previously participated in MCASB’s Teen Arts Council and were enrolled in the Visual Arts & Design Academy (VADA) at Santa Barbara High School during the ELA program. The college students have either interned at MCASB as Community Engagement Representatives or have previously served as art handlers at MCASB. The remainder of the participants were junior staff at MCASB during the ELA program. Participants’ ages ranged from 16 to 39.

Top row, from left to right: Elizabeth Arras, Alberto Lule, Julia Campos, Al Partida and Ana Urquiaga.
Bottom row, from left to right: Thalia Martinez and Sarah Dildine.
2018 ELA Group Photo

2019 ELA Fellows

The ELA fellows of 2019 are located in the tri-country area and have not been previously involved with MCASB. The high school students involved are currently enrolled in the Visual Arts & Design Academy (VADA) at Santa Barbara High School. The college students are enrolled at Santa Barbara City College, California State University, Northridge, and Mills College.

From left to right: Ana Urquiaga, Maia Mislang, Samantha Atherton, Sage Gaspar, Sera Quinteros, and Sarah Dildine.
Not Pictured: Gabe Cardenas.

Practicum Assignments

Throughout Emerging Leaders in the Arts, each fellow is required to create a project that supports and encourages diversity and inclusion. Each of these projects will be publicly presented at the end of the year, in December 2019. The projects are different of the following groups:

  • High School Students: ELA participants currently enrolled in high school are required to curate and install a week-long exhibition opening in October 2018.
  • College Students: ELA participants currently enrolled in college will formulate a project geared towards increasing diversity and inclusion for the arts within the SB arts community.
  • Above undergraduate college: ELA participants that are also MCASB staff will envision and support a project within the museum that encourages diversity and inclusion within the arts community.

Every project will require the following:

  • Project Proposal
    • 750-word paper describing the main ideas of the project, the timeline, and the implications of the project for the community
    • Projected budget
  • Project Interim Report
    • 500-word report describing the progress of the project
  • Final Project Presentation
    • Presentation to the group that successfully displays the ideas of the project, budget, plans, and the outcomes

ELA Monthly Itinerary

January: Orientation to ELA program. Meet with MCASB Exhibitions Manager and program partners (Just Communities) and discuss diversifying Art Museum Leadership.

February: One-day retreat to serve as the foundation for the diversity, equity, and inclusion part of the ELA program where participants will learn common language for discussing issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, and cultural relevance with a focus on how these issues have played out in each participant’s life and in the arts world.

March: Discuss readings about diversity and inclusion within non-profits, boards, and upper-level museum positions. Tour of MCASB exhibitions.

April: Field Trip to San Francisco to meet with curators and arts professionals at museums and relevant institutions. Tour San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Ratio 3 Gallery, Root Division Gallery, Headland Center for the Arts, Oakland Museum of California, and Youth Art Exchange. After the field trip, meet to review the topics covered during the trip and have a discussion with Just Communities about cultural relevance and cultural responsibility.

May: ‘Staying In The Know’ course explaining the importance of keeping up-to-date with art news and current artists.

June: Discussion with Just Communities about creating language inclusive art spaces.

July: Guided discussion about practicum Course Workshop. Groups, separated inter-generationally, will workshop their ideas, discuss refining, and offer solutions to the works in progress.

August: Field trip to LA to meet with curators and arts professionals at museums and relevant institutions. Tours of LACMA, MoLAA, Vincent Price Museum, and MOCA. After the field trip, meet to review the topics covered during the trip and have a discussion with Just Communities about cultural relevance and cultural responsibility.

September: Participants meet individually with program leaders to check-in about year-long projects and complete mid-year survey of the program.

October: Meet with SBCC museum studies class for tour of MCASB and discussions on curatorial practice. Tour of Slingshot gallery. Fellows finalizing plans for their practicum assignments.

November: Practicum Assignment Exhibition openings for high school-level participants, as well as community events for college-level and above college-level fellows. End of the year retreat for a review and individual work on leadership.

December: Public practicum assignment presentations for all fellows. Discussion, questions, and reception to follow. Participants meet with Sarah Dildine separately to check in about year-long projects and year-end survey of the program. Partners and interested guests/tour guides meet with Sarah Dildine for a year-end survey.

Interested in hearing more about the program, partnering, or applying for next year?

Please contact the ELA Program Manager, Sarah Dildine at or at 805.966.5373 x 109