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) is a year-long experience-based education fellowship that provides professional development training to undergraduate college and university students who identify as people of color. ELA is an ongoing program conceived of and facilitated by Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara (MCASB). Working with diverse staff at MCASB, fellows are supported through various training, mentorship opportunities, hands-on experience, museum tours and travel, networking opportunities, a stipend, and fellow-led discussions surrounding diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA), contemporary art, and current events.

This fellowship has a functional and adaptable structure that includes:

  • A foundational retreat focusing on identity and cultural competency training
  • Monthly meetings centered around diversity and inclusion 
  • Quarterly conversations with curators and museum staff
  • Peer benchmarking and field research
  • Professional development training focusing specifically on pursuing a career in curatorial or museum management
  • Independent study and project, followed by an end-of-year presentation to the Santa Barbara Community
  • Monthly check-ins with MCASB staff
  • Annual stipends
  • Annual meet-ups for ELA alumni

Interested in hearing more or applying to be a fellow?

Click here to access the ELA 2020/21 Fellow application. Once completed, please submit your application and supporting material by email to Sarah Dildine, ELA Program Manager at

For inquiries, or to submit a fellow nomination, please contact Sarah Dildine at or at 805.966.5373 x 103

2018 ELA Fellows

The 2018 ELA fellows were all based in Santa Barbara and were previously connected to MCASB in various capacities. The high school students involved had previously participated in MCASB’s Teen Arts Council (TAC) and were enrolled in the Visual Arts & Design Academy (VADA) at Santa Barbara High School during the ELA program. The college students had 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, ELA Program Manager & MCASB Exhibitions Manager.
2018 ELA Group Photo

2019 ELA Fellows

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

From left to right: Ana Urquiaga, ELA Program Coordinator, Maia Mislang, Samantha Atherton, Sage Gaspar, Sera Quinteros, and Sarah Dildine, ELA Program Manager & MCASB Exhibitions Manager.
Not Pictured: Gabriel Cardeñas.

Practicum Assignments

Independent Study and Project

Through the year each fellow will formulate an independent study and project that supports and encourages DEIA within the Santa Barbara community. The findings and outcomes of these independent studies and projects will be publicly presented by the fellows at the end of the fellowship. Each fellow will complete the following for their Independent Study and Project:

  • Study Document and Project Proposal (due by April meeting)
    • 1000-word study document with collected materials and literature around area of focus
    • 500-word paper describing the main ideas of the project, the timeline, and the potential/hoped implications of the project for the Santa Barbara community
  • Study and Project Interim Report (due by August meeting)
    • 1500 - updated study document with further refined materials and literature around area of focus
    • 1000 - word report describing the progress of the project 
  • Final Project Presentation 
    • Prepare 20-min. presentation that successfully reviews the study and outcome of project