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Arts

Min Jung Kim To Focus On Equity, Partnerships As Director Of St. Louis Art Museum

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Jeremy D. Goodwin
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Min Jung Kim makes remarks at St. Louis Art Museum on Tuesday, after being introduced as the organization's next director.

Leaders of St. Louis Art Museum announced Tuesday that Min Jung Kim, a seasoned museum professional, will be the organization’s next director.

Kim, 51, had been director and CEO of the New Britain Museum of American Art in Connecticut until last week.

She will be the first woman and the first person of color to serve as SLAM’s permanent leader. The South Korean native also is the first immigrant to the U.S. to lead the museum in Forest Park.

During her career, Kim also has served as deputy director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University and spent 12 years at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City, where she managed collaborations with museums in Russia and Vienna.

SLAM leaders announced their selection Tuesday at the museum. Kim will begin working in September. She will be paid $515,000 annually.

She replaces Brent Benjamin, who will retire at the end of the month after leading the Forest Park museum since 1999.

Kim plans to focus on strengthening relationships with other organizations in the St. Louis region and finding new opportunities for collaboration.

“My first priority is getting to know the community of St. Louis, meeting as many people as I can, and getting a better understanding of how the museum can be an even more integral part of this community,” Kim said in an interview following the announcement.

She will join the organization at a time when it is reviewing its ability to hire and retain employees of color and serve the entire community.

“[Kim is] a leader who will serve as an architect for change, with a particular focus on building diversity, equity and inclusion into the fabric of our institution,” Charles Lowenhaupt, president of the museum’s board, said at the announcement.

The museum reported to the Zoo Museum District’s board of directors last summer that 78.3% of its total paid staff members are white, and 85.7% of its 56 supervisory jobs are filled by white employees.

Benjamin acknowledged in an October interview that the museum has “a clustering of minority staff members at lower levels in the organization, and there is a relative thinness at the upper levels of the organization that is typical of many kinds of organizations, and certainly art museums.”

The museum’s board of commissioners endorsed a report on diversity, equity and inclusion last year that included 140 suggestions, including reviewing the cultural sensitivity of wall labels, doing more to attract job candidates of color and regularly collecting feedback from employees at all levels of the organization.

The museum promoted longtime staff member Renée Brummel Franklin, a Black woman, to the newly created position of chief diversity officer in December.

Kim said she was impressed by the report and the fact that the organization had begun implementing some of the suggested changes.

“The diversity report reflected a deep and thorough commitment to diversity and really taking a holistic approach,” Kim said. “It’s looking at how diversity is represented across the organization — in terms of how investments are made, what the education programs are, how the libraries are set up.”

Follow Jeremy on Twitter: @jeremydgoodwin

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