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MUSEUMS

Making good on a promise, Museum of Fine Arts names first-ever director of belonging and inclusion

Rosa Rodriguez-Williams is the MFA's new Senior Director of Inclusion.
Rosa Rodriguez-Williams is the MFA's new Senior Director of Inclusion.Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts

Rosa Rodriguez-Williams will become the Museum of Fine Arts’s first-ever senior director of belonging and inclusion, the organization announced Thursday. The longtime director of Northeastern University’s Latinx Student Cultural Center will start her new role with the MFA next week.

Rodriguez-Williams’s appointment makes good on one of several promises made by the MFA following allegations of racism and racial profiling that erupted following a May 2019 visit by seventh-graders from Dorchester’s Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy. In May of this year, the museum made public the terms of an agreement with Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, which included a $500,000 commitment over three years to support diversity initiatives and implement an anti-discrimination policy. The museum will hire an outside consultant to implement these changes while reporting its progress to Healey’s office biannually.

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Rodriguez-Williams, who worked on recruiting, retaining, and developing Latinx and Latin American Northeastern students for more than a decade, was clear about the challenges ahead in her new role. “I am both honored and excited to be joining the MFA, and to be part of an institution that acknowledges its struggle with inclusion,” she said in a statement. “Places like the MFA belong to all of us. To those who haven’t believed this in the past, join me in believing it for today and the future.”

At Northeastern, Rodriguez-Williams was known for convening workshops around the broad discussion of “power, privilege, and implicit bias,” according to the museum’s statement. In the midst of a national reckoning around historic racial discrimination, Rodriguez-Williams’s new role was designed to help the museum push forward into a more equitable future.

“This moment in time in our country reinforces the powerful opportunity that the MFA has to heal, learn and celebrate the many stories within our collection,” read a statement by Makeeba McCreary, the museum’s chief of learning and community engagement and head of the department where Rodriguez-Williams will be installed. MFA director Matthew Teitelbaum echoed these remarks in his own statement, saying that Rodriguez-Williams “will be integral in reimagining how we welcome and engage historically underrepresented audiences, truly reflecting the communities we serve. This is one of the most important issues for museums in the 21st century.”

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Murray Whyte can be reached at murray.whyte@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheMurrayWhyte