MOCAD fires executive director, reaffirms ‘commitment to diversity and inclusivity'

Board of directors said it is 'taking the concerns being raised by the community seriously'

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DETROIT – The Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) fired executive director Elysia Borowy-Reeder this week, MOCAD announced Wednesday.

“With this action, the Board of Directors seeks to reaffirm its commitment to diversity and inclusivity within the institution and the community,” a representative for the organization said.

“The Board of Directors is committed to implementing concrete actions and initiatives to deliver on its mission of being an equitable arts institution that reflects the values of the community. This corrective action realigns the museum with the mission of its founders, to present art that contextualizes, interprets, educates and expands culture, pushing our awareness of the contemporary experience to new horizons.”

A statement from MOCAD Board of Directors on MOCAD’s website:

“The Board of the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) is taking the concerns being raised by the community seriously. We are committed to taking every measure possible to ensure our employees, artists and the broader community enjoy a creative working environment that is respectful and inclusive. We have engaged an independent third party to conduct an investigation into these complaints and have established a confidential email and toll-free telephone hotline to field any further information individuals wish to provide. It is critical for us to understand as much as possible about what has happened. This will be a swift investigation and as more details become available, additional information may be shared. During this time our Executive Director is on leave-of-absence from MOCAD. Once the investigation is complete a plan of action will be formulated. Suggestions that have been made for changes in how we operate will be carefully considered as part of that plan.

In these very difficult times, MOCAD continues to be an open forum and an inclusive institution that celebrates the arts as a means for growth and healing. We have zero tolerance for harassment, discrimination or abuse in any form. MOCAD’s responsibilities to the community do not begin at the door. These are days of tremendous change. We have always supported the most creative and diverse visions and we will continue to support artists from all disciplines who see the best way forward into the future for our community, the nation and world. This is our mission.”

Borowy released a statement in response to MOCAD’s termination decision:

“I was deeply disappointed to learn this morning from a press release that I was terminated from my contract by the MOCAD Board of Directors after an investigation I disagree with, and was not interviewed for. Transparency is important and the investigation should be disclosed to the public. Over the past 8 years, I have always worked hard for MOCAD, and I am extremely proud of my accomplishments. The institution was in serious debt when I started. Now there is an operating surplus. Annual attendance is up from 12,000 to 70,000.

I have only received positive performance reviews and was given a raise just weeks ago. I have tried to conduct myself as a manager and a leader so that my work is in line with my values, including acting on my deep commitment to diversity and inclusion through outreach, programming, and engagement with artists of color often without support. In a city that is 80% people of color, only 6 of 36 Board members are people of color. We have to do better. I take the workplace allegations that have been made to heart, and am profoundly sorry for any harm I caused. I am sincerely committed to the dignity of racial justice, to healing, and accountability.”

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