The McNay Art Museum announced last week it has been selected as the recipient of a grant from the Leadership in Art Museums Initiative, a philanthropic project of a consortium of national foundations undertaken to improve diversity in museum administrations, collections and exhibitions.

The grant, $650,000 over five years, will allow the McNay to hire a curator of Latinx art, and will support the expansion of the museum’s Latinx art collection and the creation of exhibitions featuring works by artists of Latino descent.

“This is such a great development for the museum, [and] for the community at large,” said McNay Director and CEO Matthew McLendon. “We couldn’t be more honored that these foundations have come together to create this program.”

The $11 million initiative is a partnership of the Alice L. Walton Foundation, Ford Foundation, Mellon Foundation and Pilot House Philanthropy. In all, 19 art museums around the country received grants, from the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston to the Portland Art Museum in Portland, Oregon.

The foundations researched art museums and invited up to 30 to apply, said Rocío Aranda-Alvarado, Ford Foundation senior program officer in arts and culture. In most cases, the selected museums had already been working on their own to bolster diversity, equity and inclusion in their hiring and exhibitions, she said.

In announcing the grants, the foundations cite statistics showing that only 20% of people in museum leadership nationally identify as people of color. 

Aranda-Alvarado said the program builds upon an earlier program of the Ford and Walton foundations, the Diversifying Art Museum Leadership Initiative of 2017 that gave grants to 21 museums. 

Both programs were based on the Smithsonian Institution’s Latino Center, now called the National Museum of the American Latino, created in the early 1990s as a response to a lack of diversity in the museum’s own leadership. The Smithsonian reports that since 2010, its initiative has funded 20 positions for Latino curators, archivists and curatorial assistants across the institution.

McLendon said the effort to apply for the diversity grant began years before he joined the McNay in February. 

“The McNay has made a reputation for itself in the last few years for really wanting to increase diversity, equity inclusion throughout the organization,” McLendon said. “It’s one of the major goals of our strategic plan. I think you’ve seen that reflected in the types of exhibitions and programming that have been taking place at the museum over the last number of years, and I think that really put us on the radar of these foundations.”

Aranda-Alvarado said the McNay is an ideal recipient of the grant, given its home in the border state of Texas and the Latino-majority city of San Antonio. 

Just days after the leadership grant was announced, the McNay announced a $250,000 grant from the San Antonio-based Less Charitable Trust for the acquisition of art by women of color for the museum’s permanent collection.

Senior Reporter Nicholas Frank moved from Milwaukee to San Antonio following a 2017 Artpace residency. Prior to that he taught college fine arts, curated a university contemporary art program, toured with...