ABC7 Unite: Big donation aims to expand diversity among Met museum interns

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- The Metropolitan Museum of Art recently announced a move towards greater diversity, backed by a multi-million dollar gift from a single individual.

The gift allows the museum to be more inclusive when it comes to hiring interns.

These entry-level positions went to the sons and daughters of the wealthy in the past, meaning to find a job in the arts, you had to know somebody who knew somebody.

It's no wonder major cultural institutions suffered from a lack of diversity, but in New York City, the Met is working to change that.

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The largest art museum in the U.S. is open again, with protocols in place to ensure visitors stay safe while the pandemic continues. Given the challenging times, a recent gift to the Met of $5 million was especially welcome -- but the cash won't go to buy more art on the walls.

It's an investment in people like Jati Baeza.

"The internship at the Met was something that was life changing for me," she said.

In 2008, Baeza was in the forefront of a move to make the art world more diverse. She says making sure interns are paid is key to this effort.

"Frankly, I would've done it without being paid for it," she said. "But the reality is there are just so many kids who just don't have that option."

Enter Adrienne Arsht, who donated part of her fortune to ensure the interns would always be paid.

"Somebody is given that first step up that puts them on an even playing field with so many others," she said. "Then the future for them is so bright, and the future for me is enhanced."

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Arsht also insists these entry-level jobs must no longer be reserved just for the elite.

"(People need) to realize that they just don't have to go back to the usual sources," she said. "There are other superb ways and places to find terrific talent."

Outreach backed with millions of dollars can be a powerful tool.

"When you think about a field like the arts that needs diversifying to the extent that it does, this is something that really breaks down barriers for students to have opportunities they might not otherwise be afforded," Baeza said.

Two huge banners outside the Met urge visitors to "Dream Together," and the big money being spent to make a career in the arts more accessible ensures that more people will be able to pursue their dreams.

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