An Open Letter to The Neon Museum
An Open Letter to The Neon Museum
An open letter from Justin Favela to the board of trustees and management of The Neon Museum on behalf of concerned community members.
My name is Justin Favela, an installation artist, born and raised in Las Vegas, the host of two local podcasts – Latinos Who Lunch and The Art People Podcast, with a combined reach of over 2 Million downloads – and a regular guest on Nevada Public Radio (KNPR - Vegas). My work has been exhibited at art institutions like MASS MoCA, The Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and The Metropolitan Art Centre in Belfast, Ireland. From 2007 - 2013, I worked at the Neon Museum as a former Programs Administrator and Volunteer Coordinator. I’m a consistent advocate of the arts and a relentless supporter of the cultural advancement of Las Vegas; and I can no longer remain silent on the inequity that I see in a once-beloved institution.
For years, I have stood by and witnessed injustices with the treatment of volunteers and staff at the Neon Museum. After seeing failed attempts regarding the acknowledgment of Black lives on social media, and after talking with CEO Rob McCoy, it has become increasingly apparent that the management of the Neon Museum does not have the best interest of their staff or community at heart.
For the aforementioned reasons, I chose to take this conversation to social media via a series of posts highlighting the museum’s lack of action, tokenism, and more than anything, the silencing of voices. Therefore, I have outlined a series of action items listed below in need of immediate attention.
Write a Black Lives Matter statement that is not self-congratulatory.
In this statement acknowledge the history, existence, and pervasiveness of white supremacy at the Museum, and commit and be held accountable to learning and growing as an institution.
Form a community advisory board to communicate staff and community needs and concerns.
In this board, invite and include artists, art administrators from other equitable organizations, neighborhood residents, and community stakeholders that understand Diversity Equity Inclusion and Access (DEIA) statements and goals.
- Craft a Diversity Equity Inclusion and Access statement that is approved by both the executive board and a community advisory board. Once approved, the DEIA statement should be distributed to all employees.
Seek out and implement DEIA training from an accredited American Alliance of Museums source for all staff and trustees.
Revise your strategic plan, community outreach plan, and mission statement into accountable, actionable items with measurable outcomes.
Demonstrate a commitment to equitable hiring practices, and increase efforts to diversify the staff.
Promote existing BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and those employed from varying socio-economic classes into leadership positions. Currently, the employees in leadership positions are primarily white and/or affluent.
- Hire BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color).
Remove and replace the Communications Director, whose inactions have brought us to this conversation.
Rather than censoring the community voices and criticism on social media platforms, the Neon Museum should take opportunities to engage in constructive dialogue.
- Remove and replace the President and CEO for all the aforementioned reasons.
I want to love the Neon Museum again. As one of the first docents and stewards of tours 13 years ago, I saw its potential and have been a relentless champion of its growth. It is disheartening to hear the valid concerns of those who no longer work there and those who still do. It’s alarming to see that the museum is on the brink of cultural collapse. An institution does not exist without the people who keep it running. People must not be made to feel expendable; and true excellence is not possible without the pillars of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
I’ve not given up on the Museum, and, if anything, I am profoundly committed to seeing it improve; however, in order to do so, DRASTIC changes must take place. I’m asking you, the board, to take action: please take these demands into urgent consideration.