The board of the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) has fired chief curator and executive director Elysia Borowy-Reeder after more than 70 employees accused her of racial harassment and abusive work behavior. On July 3, a group called MOCAD Resistance sent the board a letter, alleging that Borowy-Reeder had committed “various racist micro-aggressions, mis-gendering, violent verbal outbursts, and the tokenization of marginalized artists, teen council members, and staff.” The MOCAD suspended her earlier this month and announced an internal investigation.
“The board’s vote to remove our executive director is a painful but first step of a course correct for MOCAD,” board chair Elyse Foltyn said in a statement. “We have tried to deliver on diversity, equity, and inclusion since our inception. However, it is clear we need to do more, better, and faster.” Over the last eight months, three Black curators — who all signed the letter — left MOCAD. A fourth curator, Tizziana Baldenebro, cited Borowy-Reeder’s “outright racist behavior” as the reason for her departure.
Indigenous-led artist collective New Red Order delayed the opening of its MOCAD exhibition, “New Red Order: Crimes Against Reality,” as a response to the allegations and are calling for the museum to meet the demands listed by the authors of the letter. Other actionable items include allocating at least one out of three of its seats to economically and racially diverse individuals from local communities, providing meaningful parental leave options to help foster an environment that is supportive of working families, and allocating one seat to an employee of the museum who will be elected by all employees of the museum.