This week, New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum announced that they’ve hired Ty Woodfolk, formerly the director of human resources, diversity and inclusion at the Shakespeare Theater in Chicago, as the institution’s inaugural chief culture and inclusion officer. This places Woodfolk in charge of carrying out the museum’s diversity plan, as well as providing a palpable shift within a much-discussed workplace culture that last year prompted 200 current and former museum employees to sign a letter condemning the Guggenheim’s systemic racism. The Guggenheim has also hired Trish Jeffers as its deputy director of human resources.
Specifically, Jeffers will be in charge of employee relations, recruitment, compensation and benefits; both new hires for the museum will start working on September 7. Some of the diversity initiatives Woodfolk will be overseeing of include promoting job opportunities and internships at the Guggenheim within historically Black universities, launching a professional network for BIPOC at the Guggenheim and examining the museum’s exhibition history in order to offer more diverse programming in the future.
Audiences are also an issue: in 2018, the museum participated in a New York City Positioning Study that found that 73 percent of the people who visit the Guggenheim in New York are white or Caucasian; 8 percent of visitors are Black or African American. In order to shift these demographics, a lot of different moves are going to have to be made.
“The creation of a head of culture and inclusion in tandem with naming a deputy director of human resources marks a positive shift in our leadership structure,” Richard Armstrong, the director of the Guggenheim Museum, said in a statement. “The partnership between these two critical areas will guide us toward reshaping our workplace culture and creating an institution that’s welcoming to all.”