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Saint Louis Art Museum

The Saint Louis Art Museum was founded in 1879 as the St. Louis School and Museum of Fine Arts, and reopened in 1906 in the beaux-arts style building that houses it today. In 1909 the Museum became a public entity supported by a city tax, and eliminated general admission fees. In 1971, voters in St. Louis City and County approved the creation of the Metropolitan Zoological Park and Museum District (ZMD), a political subdivision of the State of Missouri, and the Saint Louis Art Museum became the Art Museum Subdistrict of the Metropolitan Zoological Park and Museum District of the City of St. Louis and County of St. Louis.

The Zoo Museum District 2017-2018 Report to the Community is available for viewing here.

The St. Louis Art Museum Foundation

The St. Louis Art Museum Foundation, a Missouri nonprofit corporation, was established in 1985 for the sole purpose of supporting the mission and activities of the Saint Louis Art Museum, including but not limited to fundraising and other activities and assisting in financing expansion and renovation of its facilities. The mission of the Saint Louis Art Museum is to collect, present, interpret, and conserve works of art of the highest quality across time and cultures; educate, inspire discovery, and elevate the human spirit; and preserve a legacy of artistic achievement for the people of St. Louis and the world.

The Foundation does not own any real property nor does it conduct any activities other than those that support and promote the Museum. All income of the The St. Louis Art Museum Foundation comes from private sources.

The St. Louis Art Museum Foundation is governed by a three-person Board of Directors and two non-director Officers.

Diversity Study Group Report to the Board of Commissioners

In June 2020, the Board of Commissioners directed three of its officers to work as a study group to examine what the Museum is doing to heal racial disparities in our region and what more could be, and should be, done. The result of this work is the Diversity Study Group Report to the Board of Commissioners.

This report sets the standards for the Art Museum and devises processes that allow for the design and execution of operating strategies to address diversity, equity and inclusion through its governing committees, management, and staff with immediate actionable initiatives but also longer-term considerations requiring additional discussion, input and planning.

The Board of Commissioners unanimously adopted the report on August 31, 2020.

  • This summer, as the nation grappled with issues of racial inequities and injustice, the Saint Louis Art Museum’s Board of Commissioners recognized that the institution it leads faced a foundational challenge. Throughout its history, the Museum has sought to provide a place of refuge during historic times, where visitors can find inspiration, solace, and delight among the highest artistic achievements of humankind. In striving to achieve this ideal, too often we have failed to ask ourselves what more we can do to heal the social wounds outside our walls, especially in our community, where the Museum occupies a special place in the heart of St. Louis’s cultural life and at its geographic center.

    Recognizing its governance obligation to our Museum and our community, on June 15 the Board of Commissioners asked its president, vice president, and secretary to examine what the Museum is doing to promote diversity and inclusion, and engaged our director to help this Study Group determine what more could be done. In addition to Museum leadership and staff, the Study Group also sought the opinions of many board members and others in the St. Louis community and in the museum field. As we advanced our work, we were impressed with the important work carried out every day at the Museum. We recognize the staff’s longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion, including recent steps to diversify programming, staffing, exhibitions, and collecting, and to increase minority participation in the Museum and the museum field.

    Nonetheless, everyone involved in this process believes more can be done. On August 31, the Study Group presented our report and recommendations to the Board of Commissioners, which unanimously voted to undertake the next steps of an important and continuing process to create a culture and model of diversity, equity, access, and inclusion.

    Great institutions are guided by their mission statements, which inform us why they exist and provide the underpinning for every significant action they take. While we think organizations should not alter or amend their mission statements lightly, we believe the Museum’s commitment to diversity should be called out as a bedrock principle that will guide the institution through this transformation and long into the future. The Board of Commissioners has added the italicized language to the Museum’s mission statement:

    The Saint Louis Art Museum collects, presents, interprets, and conserves works of art of the highest quality across time and cultures; educates, inspires discovery, and elevates the human spirit; preserves a legacy of artistic achievement for the people of St. Louis and the world; and engages, includes, and represents the full diversity of the St. Louis community supporting it.

    In addition to our mission statement, the experience of art in our galleries is built on a set of fundamental values that reflect what is important to the Museum and guide its day-to-day work. These values—Art, Stewardship, Authenticity, Hospitality, and Excellence—have promoted generational strength and continuity. Yet, in this historic moment, we found these values to be incomplete. To address this, the Board of Commissioners added a new value:

    Inclusion—We value the support we receive from the taxpayers of the St. Louis City and County and our donors, and our status as a public museum and part of the greater St. Louis Community. Throughout all we collect and show, and all we do, we reflect our respect for the rich diversity of that Community, the necessary equity born of that respect, and the inclusion of and engagement with all members of that Community.

    The Commission also added strong policies relating to the art collection and its display, and to increasing the diversity of the Museum’s staff and governing board.

    The Commission has highlighted 140 actions and policies in its Diversity Report where it is directing consideration by the Museum and its boards in light of our updated mission statement and existing and added values focusing on diversity and inclusion. These actions and policies were developed during the Study Group’s three-month discovery process, which included one-on-one and small-group discussions with board members, staff, alumni of the Romare Bearden Fellowship, museum professionals, and community members, as well as a staff survey. They were also informed by the extensive literature examining the role of a general art museum in helping a community grapple with the issues now facing St. Louis and the country.

    The Commission has created a new Diversity Committee to oversee the consideration, prioritization, and as appropriate, implementation of those actions and policies set out in the report and any others informed by the Museum’s mission statement and values. This standing committee is comprised of the presidents of the Museum’s three boards, several board officers and committee chairs, and other commissioners and trustees. Moving forward, it will work with the board and staff and report quarterly to the Board of Commissioners. The first phase of this long-term effort will focus on the Black and African American communities; the Museum then will expand its diversity and inclusion scope to other minority communities that are either underrepresented or have not been fully included.

    With the goals and values and process in place, the Commission will expect substantial progress in considering and reporting all matters covered in the Diversity Report over the next 12 months. Some of that consideration has already begun, and much more should be completed before the end of 2020. The Diversity Committee expects to hold its first meeting in September or early October, and the Museum director has already begun to design a framework for staff consideration.

    The Diversity Report and the actions taken by the Commission serve as a framework for decisions the board and Museum leadership will make to address diversity, access, equity, and inclusion holistically across all Museum governance and operations. The Board of Commissioners is ultimately accountable for the implementation of policies and initiatives that emanate from this process. We hope that its success will be measured not by its words, but by its actions.

    Charles A. Lowenhaupt
    President, Board of Commissioners

    John M. Horseman
    Vice President, Board of Commissioners

    Adrienne D. Davis
    Secretary, Board of Commissioners

    Brent R. Benjamin
    The Barbara B. Taylor Director of the Saint Louis Art Museum

Director Transition

Approved by the Board of Commissioners on March, 8 2021, these documents will serve as a guide for the Museum Boards’ Director Search Committee as they embark on identifying qualified candidates and evaluating the attributes of those candidates to eventually make a final recommendation to the Board of Commissioners for the next director of the Saint Louis Art Museum.

Director Transition Listening Project

Director Position Profile