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In what shouldn’t come as a shock in 2021, the Art Institute of Chicago went full woke and fired its staff of volunteers, who were mostly older white women, in the name of diversity. That’s right, the only way the Art Institute of Chicago could diversify was through firing all the mostly older white women who served as guides.
Veronica Stein, executive director of learning and engagement at the museum, announced in a September 3 email that all 100 docents (tour guides) had been fired, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The tour guides, composed mostly of well-off white women, were given two-year museum passes as a thank you for their service. And then they were fired from a program. Many of them had 15-plus years of service.
“It was nearly a full-time job,” Dietrich Klevorn, who worked in the tour guide program, told the WSJ. “We had to spend a lot of time physically in the museum studying works of art, researching, putting tours together.
“We had to be very comprehensive about everything as we talked with them, moving through the space,” she added.
Emotions over the firings have been boiling over the last month as there have been dueling op-eds in the Chicago Tribune from both sides of this fight. The newspaper’s editorial board drilled the museum’s decision and called the firings “weaselly.”
“Why not invest some time in recruiting new, diverse docents? Why not grow the corps in such a way that it’s refreshed? Why not help docents who need help with expenses or child care? Why not have a hybrid model, at least until the current docents exit?” the op-ed board wrote.
Ahh, but we have to diversify NOW, the museum stated. No more white women.
“Critical self-reflection and participatory, recuperative action is required if we are to remain relevant to the changing audiences seeking connection to art,” Robert Levy, chairman of the Art Institute, wrote in his own op-ed.
Blah, blah, blah.
The heat was turned up on the museum over the weekend and led a spokesperson to tell Fox News that this isn’t what it looks like.
“We thought we were being very clear when outlining our plan, but somehow this has been twisted into unfounded accusations of reverse racism resulting in lewd threats against our staff. We’re simply pausing a volunteer educator program and would never want to diminish the contributions they have made. This should not be the roots of a culture war,” a spokesperson for the institute said.
There you have it. They’re pausing the program. What?
In her September 3 email, Stein wrote, the museum needed to take a path “in a way that allows community members of all income levels to participate, responds to issues of class and income equity, and does not require financial flexibility.”
Stein joined the Art Institute in March and wasted little time announcing how she’d be an asset to the museum.
“I am delighted that the Art Institute shares the priorities that have guided my work throughout my career: designing culturally responsive programming and anti-racist curricula, cultivating fully accessible spaces, and ensuring staff wellness and learning,” Stein said in a press release. “Setting the newly enhanced Ryan Learning Center in motion, and further strengthening partnerships with the Chicago Park District, Chicago Public Schools, and BIPOC cultural institutions, will be central to my work.”
So why pause the program? Go out and find a smorgasbord of volunteers who are willing to put in the work. At the same time, leave the program as is with the crew of mostly white women volunteers. You put Team Diversity through its art history training and then unleash them once the museum staff deems them ready to lead a world of diverse visitors.
It’s as if the Art Institute thinks you’re completely stupid and would believe that “pausing a volunteer educator program” is what they’re doing here.
Don’t fall for it.