2022 Grants Challenge

Transforming LA’s Museums Through BIPOC Career Initiatives

VPAM’s museum education and workforce development programs foster a new generation of BIPOC museum professionals who are diversifying the museum field in Los Angeles and beyond. The award will support programs that offer professional development and job training in a wide range of professional paths such as curatorial practice, conservation science, collections management, and museum education, providing access to the museum field for Latinx and other historically underrepresented students.


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Access to Creative Industry Employment (sponsored by Snap Foundation)

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

Central LA

East LA

San Gabriel Valley

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

Statistics illustrate that a majority U.S. museum staff are white (65%) and leadership positions in those museums are overwhelmingly white (88%). Most museum curators in the U.S. are white (79%), while only about 8% are Latinx, 4% are Black, and 4% are Asian American/Pacific Islander (AAPI), (compared with 60% white, 19% Latinx, 12% Black, and 6% AAPI overall U.S. demographics.) Studies also show that 85% of museum collections are by white artists. VPAM’s museum education and workforce development programs address lack of diversity in the museum field, which perpetuates museums as white dominated spaces that make them less inclusive of BIPOC contributions and audiences. Moreover, because museums function to reflect a society’s collective and cultural identity, the marginalization of BIPOC in cultural institutions makes their contributions less visible in the present and effectively erases these contributions in archives of our past.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

VPAM’s museum education and workforce development programs engage students at an early stage in their academic development offering them exposure and work experience within diverse museum specializations such as, curatorial practice, conservation science, collections management, and museum education. Offered each winter, the Washington DC Internship program (DCIP) comprises a five-day intensive prep and orientation at VPAM; a four-week, all-expenses-paid and stipend-supported internship in Washington D.C. working at one of the Smithsonian museums; and two follow-up sessions at VPAM to discuss outcomes and opportunities for student academic careers. In the Museum Studies Certificate Program (MSCP) ELAC students complete 7 courses in Art History, Library Science, and Anthropology as well as a stipend-supported museum internship, offered each spring at a local arts institution. The DCIP and MSCP are coordinated by VPAM’s Curator of Educational Programs, who also supports students throughout the academic year by organizing wraparound services including: opportunities to attend professional conferences; guest speaker presentations and technical workshops; career guidance; and overseeing VPAM’s new, on-site Learning Lab. If awarded, the LA2050 grant will directly support internship stipends in the DCIP and MSCP programs, salary support for the Curator of Educational Programs, and equipment and supplies for the Learning Lab.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

In the short term, the grant will contribute to the sustainability of VPAM’s museum education and workforce development programs by providing salary support for the Curator of Educational Programs, enabling student financial support during their internships, and allowing VPAM to establish a fully operational Learning Lab—equipped with the required resources to serve as a effective teaching space for Museum Studies students. Overall, support for this program contributes to a more diverse and equitable arts workforce that better reflects the true diversity of Los Angeles. A study by the LA County Department of Arts and Culture reported 69% of LA's arts/culture workforce identified as white/nonhispanic. Our arts workforce should more closely reflect 74% BIPOC that make up LA. VPAM's programs are making a difference. Between 15-20 students who participated in our programs entered 4-year programs, furthered professional development, or acquired jobs in a museum or related arts field.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

Because of the considerable investment in time and resources that a museum education requires and the overarching systemic nature of the programs’ goals (to diversify the museum field) VPAM considers both the DCIP, (now in its 4th year) and the MSCP (now in its 3rd year) to be in early, but progressing stages of their development. To assess impact each semester, the museum calculates the number of students in our programs, noting the percentage of annual increases, how many complete internships and obtain Museum Studies Certificates, and how many go on to 4-year academic programs and secure employment in the arts and museum fields. Qualitative data is collected in surveys, interviews, and testimonials from students served. Student tracking, surveys, and testimonials help assess how museum education programs led to further educational/career opportunities, how the experiences impacted students’ career paths. Data helps enhance programming, educational services, and recruitment.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 140

Indirect Impact: 20,000