The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced on Monday that it is appointing its first chief diversity officer, Lavita McMath Turner.
The search for the role started earlier this year, and the appointment comes almost exactly five months after a staff letter that urged the Met’s leaders to acknowledge “a deeply rooted logic of white supremacy and culture of systemic racism at our institution.”
Dr. Turner joins the museum after nearly 15 years in academia, fulfilling different roles at the City University of New York that often addressed issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. Before that, she spent six years at the Brooklyn Museum as a government relations officer.
“I have dedicated my career to creating equity, inclusion and community within a range of arts and culture and higher education institutions, so it is with great excitement that I accept this new position at The Met,” Dr. Turner said in a statement. “The Met is committed to ensuring that both its staff and visitors feel valued and are able to experience the Museum as a more diverse, equitable, inclusive and accessible cultural institution, goals I look forward to helping The Met achieve.”
In 2017, the city presented New York’s cultural organizations with an ultimatum: Diversify your ranks or risk losing a portion of public funding. Measuring the results of that initiative has been difficult, but some museums — under public pressure from workers — have accelerated the rate of progress within their walls.
But the goals of expanding the work force during a pandemic that has shrunken most museum budgets has not been easy.
Facing an estimated $150 million loss in revenue, the Met enacted a series of cuts over the summer. That included layoffs, 48 percent of which impacted people of color when 43 percent of the museum’s total staff identified as people of color.
Other cultural institutions have faced similar challenges. At the Guggenheim Museum, executives approved a two-year diversity plan to address accusations of racism against some members of its leadership. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has also pledged to create its own diversity initiative, which is to be released next month.
And the Met has released its own list of 13 commitments to confronting racial injustice, including more than $10 million set aside for diversifying its collection and exhibitions. The appointment of a chief diversity officer was part of that plan.
“Lavita McMath Turner has an exceptional record of success promoting equity throughout her career in cultural and higher education institutions, and she will be a key partner in helping the Met evolve into a more inclusive place to work, visit and learn,” said Daniel H. Weiss, the museum’s chief executive. “I am greatly looking forward to working together.”