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St. Louis Art Museum Taps Longtime Staffer To Lead Diversity Efforts

Renee Brummell Franklin has a long record of achievement in the arts world of St. Louis and beyond.
St. Louis Arts Museum
Renee Brummell Franklin has a long record of achievement in the arts world of St. Louis and beyond.

St. Louis Art Museum has selected its first chief diversity officer, who will lead its efforts to attract more employees of color.

Renée Brummel Franklin will be promoted to the new position on Jan. 1, after serving as the museum’s director of audience engagement since 2014. She has worked at SLAM since 1998.

Franklin, who could not be reached for comment, will act ona report about diversity, equity and inclusion at the museum written by the museum’s board of commissioners.

“For more than 20 years, Renée has played a critical role in expanding community programs and reaching new and diverse audiences,” museum director Brent R. Benjaminsaid in a statement. “In her new role, Renée will oversee these ongoing efforts and work on new projects that will engage, include, and represent the full diversity of the St. Louis community.”

Franklin has a long history of achievement in the arts community of St. Louis and beyond. She is a founding member of the National Alliance of African American Art Support Groups and started SLAM’s Friends of African American Art Collectors Circle, a group that aims to enhance museumgoers' enjoyment of work by African American artists.

She was named outstanding arts professional at the 2010 Visionary Awards, presented by Grand Center Inc. At the time she was SLAM’s director of community partnerships.

The museum’s board adopted the report on diversity, equity and inclusion on Aug. 31. It includes a few firm recommendations — including hiring a chief diversity officer — and dozens of suggestions for museum leaders to consider.

Among the suggestions are changing hiring practices to attract more candidates of color, setting aside funds to acquire more work by non-Western artists and examining all existing wall labels “through a lens of racial equity” to determine if they should be changed.

The museum reported to the Zoo Museum District’s board of directors this summer that 78% of its total paid staff members are white and that 85% of its 56 supervisory jobs are filled by white employees.

Benjamin said in October that the museum’s patrons are more diverse than the St. Louis metro area generally, but that there is “a clustering of minority staff members at lower levels in the organization and there is a relative thinness at the upper levels” of the museum’s staff.

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Copyright 2021 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

Jeremy D. Goodwin joined St. Louis Public Radio in spring of 2018 as a reporter covering arts & culture and co-host of the Cut & Paste podcast. He came to us from Boston and the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, where he covered the same beat as a full-time freelancer, contributing to The Boston Globe, WBUR 90.9 FM, The New York Times, NPR and lots of places that you probably haven’t heard of.