Commitment to Diversity, Equity, Access, and Inclusion (DEAI): Block Museum - Northwestern University
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Commitment to Diversity, Equity, Access, and Inclusion (DEAI)

We aspire to be an institution in which the values of diversity, equity, access, and inclusion (DEAI) are fully present in the who, what, where, when, why, and how of our work.

Our DEAI Statement 

At The Block Museum of Art, we are inspired by art’s capacity to express the range of our shared humanity. We aspire to be an institution in which the values of diversity, equity, access, and inclusion (DEAI) are fully present in the who, what, where, when, why, and how of our work. Further, we acknowledge that centering diverse identities and perspectives within the museum is essential to our institutional excellence and sustainability.

We seek to build an organizational culture in which the essential values of diversity and free expression coexist, cultivating a workplace that welcomes staff participation from within the fullness of personal identity and lived experience and making the museum a place where such participation is welcome and meaningful. This internal work will set the context, in turn, for a museum where each individual visitor is equally welcomed and supported.
. We seek to center collaborative, decolonizing processes when developing programs that uphold inclusivity, reciprocity, and research, all shaped by respect for our partners and the stories we represent.

Through commitments in the ten areas of 1) staff, 2) leadership, 3) advisors 4), campus community, 5) collecting, 6) programming, 7) partnering and hosting, 8) eliminating barriers, 9) accessibility, and 10) accountability and transparency, we seek to embody the ideals to which we aspire.

We recognize that this work will evolve, that at times we will make missteps, and that we must commit to sustained, intentional efforts by the museum’s leadership, staff, and advisors. We will accept accountability when we fail, and we will seek guidance from others to uncover and learn from our shortcomings.

(January 2021)


Our DEAI Commitments

Reflecting on our context as Northwestern University’s campus art museum and aiming to embody the values of our DEAI mission, we commit to the following areas of growth: 

Our DEAI Commitments


Implementing practices for hiring that attract and retain staff of diverse identities and abilities in all segments of the institution; cultivating lateral structures for listening and distributed decision-making, both in an environment where individuals can express themselves wholly and comfortably; and providing opportunities for professional growth and enrichment including in DEAI.


Participating in and cultivating conversations and initiatives that advance DEAI work across the field of university art museums, reflect the values of our DEAI statement in the scholarship and knowledge we produce and present, and demonstrate our investment in this internal and external work through how we develop and allocate resources.


Building advisory board capacity to advance our DEAI values by creating a more diverse and representative membership, reviewing board organization structures, and working with board members to establish accountability for deliverables.


Recognizing Northwestern students, faculty, and staff in the fullness of their identities and as key partners in our work; providing an environment where campus constituents of all backgrounds, beliefs, interests, and expertise feel fully at home and empowered in our galleries, programming, and student engagement opportunities.


Ensuring ethical acquisition practices in building a collection that reflects diverse identities and perspectives across culture, gender, orientation, and race.


Forging collaborations with opportunities for dialogue among campus and community partners through programs that foreground global content and diverse perspectives.


Partnering and hosting through a DEAI lens, with a spirit of generosity, inclusivity, and reciprocity in order to support and amplify the work and perspectives of others.


Shaping experiences that are inclusive to all and that eliminate barriers to participation with respect to: ability, age, citizenship status, education, ethnicity, gender identity, geographic background, neurodiversity, race, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic background, or other identities or any combination of these identities.


Evaluating and adapting physical and digital spaces and our protocols for our work to better accommodate the abilities of all visitors.


Internally prioritizing a DEAI framework for strategic goal-setting and decision-making museum-wide; undertaking ongoing staff-led evaluation, review, and revision of our policies, practices, and structures; integrating DEAI accountability in yearly Performance Excellence goals; and offering public transparency regarding our work in these areas.

Update on DEAI Initiatives (January 2022) 

In spring 2021, the Block formed a Staff DEAI Working Group with representatives from across departments to recommend deliverable actions related to our organization goals Members conducted meetings with each museum department, held workshops, and hosted individual staff interviews to build an assessment of museum work culture and activities in relation to the Block’s DEAI commitments and stated values. The Working Group shared a significant summary of these conversations outlining priorities and recommendations with museum leadership in fall 2021. In their initial report, the DEAI working group has identified three areas for current focus: communication, accessibility, and investment in staff.

In addition to individual goals and departmental commitments related to DEAI, museum deliverables underway in 2022 include:

In December 2020, the Block joined Enrich Chicago, a group whose organizational mission is to “irrevocably change the racist systems in the arts so that African, Latinx, Asian, Arab, and Native American (ALAANA) arts, ALAANA arts organizations, and ALAANA people thrive.” Three Block staff representatives regularly attend workshops, share institutional DEAI goals, and exchange ideas with colleagues in regional cultural non-profits. Together, the Enrich cohort works towards a common goal of broad institutional change with regard to racial equity.

The Block Board of Advisors has developed its own DEAI deliverables, raised resources to support the Block’s DEAI commitments, and formed a DEAI Study Group in summer 2021. Its' first meeting in fall 2021 included presentations by the Northwestern Black Arts Consortium.



Our Context 

As the Block Museum enacts these DEAI commitments and measures its progress, we must begin by evaluating our starting point and being transparent in our assessment of our work.

We recognize that The Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University sits on the traditional homelands of the people of the Council of Three Fires, the Ojibwe, Potawatomi, and Odawa, as well as of the Menominee, Miami, and Ho-Chunk nations and that we share this space today with people of many Indigenous backgrounds. Through the integrity of our work we must honor the land and the peoples who have called this place home since time immemorial.

The Block further benefits from and is implicated in systemic racism, which creates and sustains the racial inequality of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in the United States, permeating our institutions and national culture. Oppression based on ability, gender-identity, sexual orientation, and other prejudices have also shaped the status quo of museum practice and design. Like many institutions we feel the urgent call to bring our examination of these issues into focus within our local context and to consider our own work and internal structures through an antiracist lens and within the broader framework of diversity, equity, access, and inclusion.

At the Block Museum, our commitment to DEAI work is informed by members of our community who are a source of inspiration and knowledge; these include Northwestern’s AccessibleNU, Black Arts Consortium, Center for Native American and Indigenous Research, Center for Social Justice Education, Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy, Department of African American Studies, Neighborhood and Community Relations, Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Office of Equity, Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, and the Women’s Center as well as data and findings of The African American/Black Student Experience Report 2016, the 2018 Diversity and Inclusion Report, the annual reports of the Native American Outreach and Inclusion Task Force, the Trans and Gender Non-Binary Task Force Report 2019, and current admissions statistics from the Office of Undergraduate Admission.

 Founded in 1980, The Block is tied to the history and ongoing structures and practices of art museums, which have perpetuated systemic racism that harms and enacts inequalities in the work we collect and exhibit, in how we are staffed and funded, and how we include or exclude our audiences. Nearly a decade ago, The Block initiated a new commitment to presenting diverse perspectives on art across time, place, and culture. While this commitment opened our work in certain aspects, we recognize that we can do more to bear witness to and to dismantle oppressive systems in significant areas of our work.