A couple of weeks ago my wife, Alex, drove our daughter Piper to New York City, where she is starting college this week. While they were traveling, I spent a good amount of time thinking about the current year, the upcoming one, and the opportunities we have ahead of us. With the school year just started, one looks back at 2020 and has the impression that much of the time was devoted to managing a world health crisis and how we have adapted to it. Let’s not forget, however, that 2020 was the year that the DIA renewed its millage and therefore secured its service to the community (for our schools, seniors and community partners) as well as its financial stability for many years to come. Like seeing my daughter leave home, I have a bittersweet taste about the last nine months, where we accomplished a lot together, but also saw the time slip through our fingers as we coped with the unexpected while courageously staying on mission.
In the final weeks of summer, life offers the opportunity to start over with fresh energy as we focus on the business at hand. The time has come to develop a new strategic plan now that the current one, approved by our Board in 2016, has accomplished much of its goals. Over the upcoming months we will have conversations with staff, volunteers, and the board to define the role of the museum moving forward. Examining our vision, mission, and goals is paramount as we determine what our museum can and will be, and how we can serve our society at the local, national, and international levels.
Over the past months the DIA team has made an extraordinary effort to pivot much of our work to a digital platform. As a visitor-centered museum, we are leaders in the field, creating meaningful in-person experiences, but have not put as much focus on the online experience. As we consider our digital future, we plan to create a new department that will produce high-quality digital assets aligned with our work initiatives: schools, seniors, community partners, exhibitions, and public programs among others. This department will integrate technology into our activities inside and outside of the museum. We hope this work and our new website will be fully functional in 2021 – both well connected to our new strategic plan.
In the meantime, the DIA continues focusing on our Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access (IDEA) initiative. This work began in 2015 when we designed a plan, with the help of the Governance and Nominating Committee of the Board, to diversify our Board to reflect the demographic make-up of our tri-county area. Through our “Reflecting Our Community” , a cross-departmental staff taskforce dedicated to IDEA, we continued this crucial effort with a renewed emphasis on acquiring artwork by African American artists, and established the Valade paid internship program, which provides increased access to the museum field. Last year we received an IMLS grant to support DIA’s IDEA and with part of these funds, we implemented cultural competency training for the staff, volunteers, and board in early 2020. As part of that grant, last week we hired a firm that will help bring real organizational change in this area and is already working with our internal teams to develop the DIA’s IDEA mission, vision, and goals. Melissa Peña Gallis, our executive director of human resources, is leading the project and under her direction the executive team has cleared their calendars to give it maximum priority as each of us works with our own teams on this chief initiative.
As I re-read and reflect on this letter, I realize how crucial our work will be during the upcoming months as the museum starts its next chapter. We have the past from which to learn, the present to co-create and grow together as an organization, and the future to dream to be the best we possibly can for our community. I know you will help us.