Crowd of residents at Akron Art Museum during Akron Art Prize 2014.

The Akron Art Museum’s interim director on rebuilding trust in the institution

by Noor Hindi

On May 27, The Devil Strip sent questions via email to John Fiume, Interim Director of the Akron Art Museum, about rebuilding trust and uplifting the voices of women and people of color in the organization. 

After Masuoka’s resignation on May 19, following reports of mismanagement, racism and poor treatment of employees, Fiume was appointed as interim director. Fiume, who was a former board member of the Akron Art Museum, has also served as the chief operating officer of Mustard Seed Market & Cafe. 

Here are Fiume’s answers:

What are your plans for implementing a more open and collaborative space at the museum, both for employees and the larger community of artists?

Once we receive notice from the Governor that we are able to reopen, we will do so in a way that protects the health and safety of our staff and community. Through that process, we are considering the use of all of our footprint. This allows for re-engagement with our community, but within appropriate social distancing guidelines.

Culturally, I intend to foster an environment of open communication, trust, respect for each other and collaboration. This pertains to not only our employees, but all who find something special about our institution and choose to visit us. Accordingly, our outreach will continue with all sectors of the community; artists included.

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What are some of your plans for building revenue amid the current controversy?

Operationally, the first priority is to safely reopen and invite the community to return. Moving forward, our plan is to continue to present stellar modern art. We want to balance bringing art from outside the region while showcasing our local artists. Therefore, many of [our] upcoming projects will focus on shining a light on talent in Northeast Ohio.

We will also seek to initiate conversations and build relationships with all members of the community. That work has already successfully begun and resulted in continued support voiced by several funders. We also have had community projects that were in the middle of development when COVID hit. Some will necessarily have to be postponed, others must be reimagined for the realities of life following a pandemic. Conversations regarding the evolution of these projects are already in motion. I remain confident in the Museum leadership and staff regarding our ability to rebuild trust and regain a vibrant footing for this institution.

How will you work to uplift the voices of women and people of color within the organization?

Under my leadership, everyone has a voice regardless of gender or race. This includes the two women (with one also being a racial minority) sitting on the Museum’s leadership team. But the same applies to all women and all people of color and is independent of their relationship with the Museum, whether an employee, volunteer, member or neighbor. I and the leadership staff at the Museum will continue [to] hear their voices. As a stepping stone, in the weeks to come, I will engage small virtual meetings with all employees so that I can get to know them better, welcome their questions, and hear their ideas. This will then logically extend to our local community and then greater Northeast Ohio thereafter. As we work toward recruiting a new leader, all of these principles will be key components of their leadership style as well.