Detroit Institute of Arts staff list demands after director complaints

Just over a week after former and current staff at the Detroit Institute of Arts called for the removal of museum director Salvador Salort-Pons, the DIA Staff Action Group (DIASA) has released a full list of demands on petition website change.org. (See the petition here.)
Among these demands are “a comprehensive independent investigation into the multiple accusations of poor leadership, work hostility, racism, sexism and sexual harassment over the past five years,” a revision of the COVID-19 strategic plan “to ensure that staff and visitors are not exposed to health or safety risks” and an acknowledgement from DIA leadership and the board of directors regarding “how extremely low staff satisfaction has been, and continues to be, under the leadership of Salort-Pons.”
The petition was released in conjunction with an evidence document that includes specific examples of alleged wrongdoing at the DIA. The
document paints a picture of “a hostile work environment where staff, especially BIPOC, (Black, indigenous, people of color) are unable to thrive.” It refers to Salort-Pons as “angry, hostile and dismissive,” and “sexist in his engagements with female staff who challenge him.”
It also includes various anonymous testimonials similar to those that have also been shared on DIASA’s social media accounts in recent days.


The DIA issued a statement Wednesday acknowledging the new demands. “We … will be reviewing the petition to determine the appropriate response,” it said. “As we have previously communicated, we will listen to the input of current and former employees, along with independent experts, to inform decision-making, particularly in the priority areas of diversity, equity, inclusion and access.”
DIASA will seek to obtain 300 signatures on the petition over the next three weeks and is asking museum leadership and the board of directors to meet its demands no later than Aug. 31.


The group initially announced its plan for the petition July 20. On that day, it
also made its first demand: the immediate resignation of
Salort-Pons.
The news was not surprising to several current and former employees, some of whom say they witnessed
Salort-Pons’ leadership style firsthand
Nick Rowley, who worked in community relations at the DIA between 2015 and 2017, called the demand for Salort-Pons’ resignation “clearly justified,” adding that “the museum (does) not value or understand its nonwhite staff.”


“There needs to be a change in leadership … and, as a consequence, a change in culture at the museum,” he said.


Stephanie Taylor-Coleman, who worked as a graphic designer at the DIA between 2017 and 2020, said: “I’m not surprised that levels of frustration from staff have reached this point.”


In interviews with the Free Press, current staff called the demand for Salort-Pons’ resignation “necessary,” and “absolutely justified and a long time coming.”


Since going public, DIASA has received a letter of support for an anonymous group of service workers at the museum. The service workers wrote: “Our concern is a certain lack of respect by the institution for workers on the ‘lower levels,’ particularly those who engage and serve (with care for the museum and with the utmost decency) the public.” They noted that they were working for as little as $10 an hour without hazard pay and also said: “It is only fair the institution pays us a minimum of $15/hour at all levels. … It is simply not a lot to ask.”


More: DIA action group calls for museum director’s resignation, says more demands forthcoming
More: Whistleblower group files ethics complaint against DIA director and board chair
In a July 15 interview with the Free Press, Salort-Pons acknowledged that several employees had struggled with the work environment at the DIA during his tenure. He attributed that struggle to strategic changes he made after taking over the directorship in 2015.


He also said that since becoming director, he has made significant strides in the areas of diversity and inclusion, including instituting a paid internship program and hosting the Detroit Fine Arts Breakfast Club, a primarily African American group of …
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