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Not a pretty picture at the MFA

The exterior of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.JIM DAVIS/GLOBE STAFF

A sad day for arts and culture

The other night I was thinking of reinstating my Museum of Fine Arts membership. The next morning I reconsidered (“Specter of racism puts MFA in the spotlight,” Page A1, May 24).

I love the MFA — its dynamism, architectural beauty, and countless opportunities for learning as well as the majesty of the art it holds. But I have to wonder at the hypocrisy of a museum that represents the diversity of our multicultural world while allowing racism to flourish. Because what’s most shocking to me about what happened there May 16 is not that a group of eager children were made to feel belittled and inferior in what will surely be a moment they will never forget. What’s most shocking is how long it took for the museum to issue a public apology that not once acknowledged what was reported to have happened — the racist mistreatment of children by its very own staff and patrons.

Should the museum falter at stating, unequivocally, a no-tolerance policy toward racist acts by anyone within its walls, we must wonder about its complicity in the persistence of hateful discrimination.


Museums, like all nonprofits, rely on the generosity of donors of all kinds. At the MFA that includes visitors and people like me, who may, or may not, become museum members.

Martha Kurz


Not being a racist institution should be the given, not the aspiration

Upon reading the Globe’s report of the inexcusable treatment a group of area students received at a class visit to the Museum of Fine Arts, and the museum’s response that this “is not who we are,” I was reminded of Maya Angelou’s well-known remark: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

Not being a racist institution should not be aspirational; it should be a reality — especially for an institution as “prestigious” as the MFA. Clearly work needs to be done with respect to training staff. Taking measures to make the museum more accessible to all area residents would also be a step in the right direction.


Jain Ruvidich-Higgins


Incident goes beyond museum, speaks to a problem in this region

Re “At the MFA, an unexpected lesson in racism” by Renée Graham (Opinion, May 24): My heart goes out to the students who had to experience ignorant behavior by MFA staff and patrons. For one MFA official to say that this is “fundamentally not OK” is an understatement; it is outright wrong,

I am a white second-generation Italian-American, who, when I was just a few years older than these students, experienced a group of ad executives in New York telling mean jokes about Italians in my presence. It was hurtful and upsetting, and I remember it to this day, so I know this event will affect these students. Their view and trust of white society will reinforce something of which they are already aware. The MFA debacle only highlights what is an obvious and sad state of exclusivity in the Boston area, seen by the rest of the country as an East Coast, liberal blue district.

That image is far from reality. When I moved to Boston in 1981, I was struck by the absence of African-Americans and Latinos wherever I went (except, of course, in the inner city neighborhoods). To this day it remains the same.

This incident goes way beyond the MFA and only highlights what is an endemic problem with this region. It’s time this began to change.


JoAnn Ignelzi