The communications department at the Fine Arts Museums is responsible for public relations, social media, and internal communications—and we handle a large volume of it. As part of that, we advocate for and promote the Museums’ DEIA work. We celebrate the organization's progress, but maintain healthy doses of criticality and self-reflection. This is crucial for us, because we take seriously our obligation to communicate transparently and truthfully to our audiences.
Over the past two years, the communications team designated time and space for critical examination of our departmental work in alignment with the Museums’ commitment to anti-racism. Following this reflection, and institution-wide DEIA training facilitated by Be the Change Consulting, we convened a division summit to outline our department-specific DEIA goals. We determined that realizing these goals required us to shift priorities and budgets. Our team felt confident and purposeful in doing so. Here we share the progress we have made in the past year since our summit. We celebrate some wins and document areas where we desire to do more.
Communications \ Public Relations
The communications team’s focus has typically been to secure media stories and placements almost entirely around our special exhibition program. Within this context, our team has prioritized exhibitions based on gallery space and number of artworks. The bigger a show was, the more our team would work to publicize. We found that working in this nature often resulted in less attention and coverage for shows featuring artists of color and women artists, in addition to a neglect of other public programs and events. We felt there needed to be a larger focus on these areas, as well as on acquisitions, collections, and digital offerings, to emphasize all of the great work our colleagues were doing across the Museums, and a true push for the inclusion of artists whose work has been historically underrepresented, including BIPOC artists, women artists, and LGBTQ artists.
After our trainings with Be the Change, we discussed a variety of strategies to ensure our processes and workload emphasized DEIA values, in addition to an overall goal that promoted institutional work:
Overall Goal: Shift communications priorities from exhibition focus to long-term institutional brand building
Here’s an update on our progress . . .
1. Establish internal workflows that produce high-quality content no matter where the ideas come from.
Our team has worked to increase promotional efforts for exhibitions with stronger DEIA values (including historically excluded groups, those with different abilities, LGBTQ, and more), even when they are smaller shows or are located in smaller galleries.
Throughout this past year, this included exhibitions such as Wangechi Mutu: I Am Speaking, Are You Listening?, celebrated as one of the best exhibitions of the year; Hung Liu: Golden Gate (金門), receiving the most coverage an installation in Wilsey Court has ever secured; and Jules Tavernier and the Elem Pomo, which, although a one room show, received the promotional attention usually reserved for a much larger show. This is only a snapshot of the exhibitions we worked to uplift this year.