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Hundreds Of Getty Staff Call For Action On Racism In Open Letter

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The Getty is among the many institutions wrestling with how it handles concerns about diversity in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd and renewed attention around the Black Lives Matter movement. Now more than 250 current and former employees have issued an open letter calling on the Getty's Board of Trustees to take immediate steps to address its own deficiencies.

The letter asks the board to set "actionable, measurable goals to increase diversity and repudiate racism at Getty." The signers also ask for a response within one week of the letter's receipt — it is dated Wednesday, July 15.

The letter reads, in part:

"Since its inception, senior leadership and the highest profile members of Getty staff have remained nearly entirely white. Racism abounds, from insensitive comments made by management and frequent microaggressions experienced by staff and visitors of color to collecting practices and exhibition programs that glorify the work of white heterosexual cisgender male artists to the exclusion of others."

The letter is signed by 167 current staff members at the Getty Trust, the Getty Museum, and other parts of the Getty organization — 148 signed their names, 19 signed anonymously. It's also signed by 85 former staff members, as well as other visitors, allies, and current and former interns.
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The letter calls on the Getty's board to "ensure BIPOC voices are a part of every level of work at Getty" and that both senior leadership and board positions be held by people who've demonstrated a commitment to "equity and antiracism."

"It has become apparent that Getty leadership is unprepared to do this vital work," the letter states.

The Getty is criticized for not publicly stating: Black Lives Matter. The letter calls their social media statements "weak and noncommittal," and specifically calls out Getty President/CEO Jim Cuno for "careless and repeated mention of his former Black school friends," as well as Getty Museum Director Tim Potts for his "sweeping remarks about the nonexistence of art made by women or BIPOC." The Museum includes few pieces of art by women; the majority of the art on display is by white men.

The letter notes that these "harmful missteps are, unfortunately, endemic of Getty leadership."

Multiple employees said that the letter follows a recent staff meeting, following protests over the killing of George Floyd, where members of senior leadership were defensive about their handling of diversity. Those staff members requested anonymity due to concern over their jobs within the Getty organization and fear of retribution.

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The Getty hired an outside firm to help with its handling of diversity in July 2019. Citing a recently formed diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) council and task forces, the letter notes that these efforts have no funding attached to them. The letter calls for these groups to be given authority to enact change, rather than issuing recommendations to senior leaders.

Those leaders "have little incentive to move quickly and to make DEI a priority."

A Getty spokesperson responded to the letter in a statement:

"Getty’s Board and Senior Leadership are committed to immediately addressing priority issues, including building a diverse workforce, confronting and eliminating racism in the workplace, deepening our engagement with communities of color in the work we do, and expanding the diversity of perspectives and narratives brought to the work of all four Getty programs. We have said there is much work to do, and we must move forward with urgency in accomplishing it, along with our dedicated, talented, and deeply caring staff and our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council and Task Forces."

The open letter calls for specific action, saying that without it, the Getty's mission "is fraudulent."

READ THE FULL LETTER:

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