The New York Times reports that Mayor Bill de Blasio has signed off an initiative to perform a diversity review of the staff, board members, and patrons of city-financed cultural institutions in New York City, ranging from the Whitney Museum to the Public Theater.

The Department of Cultural Affairs, under the helm of commissioner Tom Finkelpearl, announced the decision to review diversity in their institutions in January of this year at a meeting attended by 230 representatives from the city's arts groups. Finkelpearl told the Times, "If you're living in a city like we are in New York — with 65 percent people of color right now — maybe we're missing out on some of the talent if we don't have diverse audiences, staffs and boards." Preach.

He continues:

"We're not looking to be punitive," Mr. Finkelpearl said. "We don't want a moment when a list gets published that says, 'Here are the least and most diverse organizations.' The administration is committed to diversity as a general goal. We want to know by sector — what can we learn from how people develop audiences and staffs and boards, highlighting the positive, sharing best practices."

The review, which will be performed by an outside vendor this summer, will not influence financial support of the arts institutions, Finkelpearl said, and the data will be collected to show overall trends, not the diversity (or lack thereof) of individual institutions. As the commissioner points out, "over 90 percent of staffs at museums nationally are white." That is not good.

The responses from cultural institutions that will be reviewed have reportedly been positive, though no decision has been made about what will be done with the results of the review.

[Image via Shutterstock]

Contact the author at