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'Dismantle NOMA' calls for change as museum reopens

Responding to Dismantle NOMA, the museum apologized for “any hurt we have caused."

NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans Museum of Art, or NOMA, reopened Wednesday for the first time since the pandemic forced it to stop operations.  As part of the reopening, visitors were able to enjoy the museum for free on Wednesday.  

“It feels right it feels timely.  We’ve been closed since March 16, and we’re all eager to welcome our guests back,” said NOMA’s director, Susan Taylor.  

Social distancing, face masks and regular cleanings are now part of NOMA’s operations.  Ticket sales are strictly online and visitor capacity will be capped at 50 percent. Like many businesses and operations, NOMA is taking a huge hit in revenue because of COVID-19, but money is only one issue it’s facing.

“It’s clear there has been a history of injustices done to marginalize groups at NOMA, and we’re not OK with that,” Ifatumininu Bamgbala Aresa said.

Bamgbala Aresa is part of “Dismantle NOMA”, a group of former employees who resigned because of “institutional racism” and a “hostile work environment” at the museum.  

Through a blitz of social media posts, the group went public with its allegations, and also listed demands for more diversity among NOMA’s staff, leadership and operations.

“We all feel that we have a lot of work to do internally in order to make sure that we represent all of the people of New Orleans, every constituency,” Taylor said.  

Responding to Dismantle NOMA, the museum apologized for “any hurt we have caused."  It laid out a plan to add more diversity in its exhibits and throughout its organization.  It did not remove Taylor as director, which was one of as Dismantle NOMA’s demands.  

“I believe in my staff and I believe in our senior leadership that we will work together to effect change,” Taylor said.  

Dismantle NOMA says it’s not satisfied with the initial proposals the museum has presented.  

“It is important that people choose, wisely to be on the right side of history, we see those changes happening cyclically every so often.  I personally feel very grateful to be able to witness it in my lifetime,” Bamgbala Aresa said.      

Whether you agree with those changes or not, they are happening.  Look at NASCAR or changes to rides at Disney theme parks.  Now, the calls to get to a moral high ground have arrived in the world of high art.    

NOMA’s are now 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday.  To read the full list of accusations from Dismantle NOMA, click here.

To read NOMA’s response to the accusations its policy for change visit, click here.

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