New board members at Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art include (left to right) Dr. Adrienne Walker Hoard, professor emerita of Fine Art/Black Studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City; Dr. Clara Irazabal, an urban planner; and Duvel “DJ” Pierre, an attorney with Spencer Fane. (Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art)
In February Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art announced new trustees, changes to its governing board structure and new status as a public charity.
The changes were initiated by the museum’s 2017 strategic plan to thoughtfully reflect its diverse community.
New board members include Dr. Adrienne Walker Hoard, professor emerita of Fine Art/Black Studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City; Dr. Clara Irazabal, an urban planner; and Duvel “DJ” Pierre, an attorney with Spencer Fane.
Historically, Kemper Museum’s governing structure included a board of trustees and an advisory board of directors that represented the broader community. In 2020 that hierarchy transitioned into a single board of trustees. As a result of that change, philanthropist and poet Lindsay Major and Consuelo Cruz, an arts marketing and community engagement professional, now serve on the board of trustees.
“The museum’s success in serving the community is its ability to have representation from the community,” said Sean O’Harrow, Kemper’s executive director. “The new members reflect more parts of our community. As we bring in more members, that will only increase.”
Hoard said she is “excited to be on the Kemper board of trustees at this time, because as a contemporary museum I see them as a cultural repository for art that’s being made now. Their collection looks at historic and contemporary art forms. But I don’t feel that enough young people know about the impact of art and see art as a profession or see art as a necessity in their lives.”
At The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Hoard served as the lead community advisor when the museum presented the “30 Americans” exhibition (held in 2019) that featured American experiences as told from the perspectives of 30 African American artists.
“I have had a lot of opportunity to work at building partnerships between a museum and people who may have had no former relationships with museums,” she said. “I like creating partnerships. As an artist and a businesswoman in Kansas City, I like seeing projects that engage a large number of people. We have to find ways to engage, because the pandemic has taken a lot of engagement activities away from us.”
The changes and additions have grown the board from seven to 11 members, O’Harrow said. “It could grow to as many as 22 board members in the next few years. We also added a rotation so that members will cycle off, as you see on other boards, to keep the flow of people continuing.”
The Kemper, previously a private foundation, now operates as a public charity. The change required approval from the Internal Revenue Service.
O’Harrow said the museum had fulfilled the necessary IRS criteria for public charity designation over the last five years. “It means you receive more varied support from the public. It’s not related to the board change, but it runs parallel and has the same effect. It’s about the diversity of your support. In the world of support for organizations such as ours, public charities are better supported than a private foundation.”
Danielle Merrick, executive director of KC Volunteer Lawyers & Accountants for the Arts (KCVLAA), agreed that the museum is diversifying its funding sources by converting to a public charity.
“Frankly, Kemper largely operates as if it is already a public charity,” Merrick said. “They have fundraisers to solicit individual donors, and they solicit donations through memberships. With their programming and the way they solicit support from the public, they’ve been presenting as if they’re a public charity for a very long time.”