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Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art increases base pay to $15 an hour in a new strategic plan

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Posted at 11:52 AM, Sep 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-01 12:52:11-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art's Board of Trustees approved a new strategic plan that increased the base pay for employees to $15 an hour.

The museum said in a press release that they did a compensation analysis as part of the new plan with the help of a professional firm to make sure that their staff members were "fairly paid."

The increase in base pay is for hourly employees, which make up one-third of the museum's staff, but all staff will receive a 3% increase in salary or wages.

Chair of the Board of Trustees Richard C. Green said in the release that the museum has thrived because of the employees throughout the years.

“The museum leadership is working hard to recognize the value of its staff, volunteers, members, and community members who help us grow in every way," Green said in the release. "Through our new Strategic Plan and our day-to-day work, we amplify our commitment to inclusion of all people, with the rich diversity that comes from different backgrounds, ideas, and experiences.”

The Board of Trustees adopted the plan to integrate "inclusion, diversity, equity and access into the overall approach to the museum's mission," according to the release.

The museum talked with staff, volunteers and trustees about issues of inclusion, race and diversity. An issue was raised about one of the museum's founders — William Rockhill Nelson, a real estate developer and newspaper publisher with a history of segregationist practices.

The Nelson-Atkins museum board voted to keep its current name during the summer of 2021.

“The Board concluded that as an institution rooted in history, an attempt to expunge a portion of the museum’s history is not the answer to fighting racism or advancing our community,” said Julián Zugazagoitia, the museum’s Menefee D. and Mary Louise Blackwell director and CEO. “The better approach is to ensure and demonstrate that the Nelson-Atkins is a model for inclusivity and that our programs have a profound reach.”

The museum said it is doubling down on its commitments to diversity by changing the pay structure for staff, acquiring more works of art by diverse artists and finding ways to engage the community with art.

Nelson-Atkins currently has a show called Testimony: African American Artists Collective which features local and regional artists from the Kansas City-based African American Artists Collective, which is on view through March 27, 2022. The museum is also developing an installment that will showcase work by Asian American and Pacific Islander artists.

With the new strategic plan, the museum also announced new leadership on the Board of Trustees. Green will complete his final year as chair of the board in April 2022, and Evelyn Craft Belger will be taking his place. Belger has been a member of the board since 2016.

Belger is the president and CEO of Belger Cartage Service, a crane company in Kansas City, and she has 16 years in arts management positions. She and her husband, Dick Belger, own the Belger Arts Center, which showcases their art collection to the public.