Mia Locks leaves LA MOCA, citing initiatives to resist diversity
Mia Locks stepped down as senior curator and head of new initiatives at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art after just twenty-one months of work, the Los Angeles Times reports. Locks, who joined LA MOCA in July 2019, oversaw the institution’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility (IDEA) program, which was launched in the fall of 2019. In an email Speaking to colleagues on March 26 regarding her impending departure, she acknowledged her gratitude for the initiative, but said she felt that “the leadership of MOCA is not yet ready to embrace IDEA.”
Prior to coming to LA MOCA, Locks, along with Christopher Y. Lew, was a co-curator of the 2017 Whitney Biennale; previously she worked at MoMA PS1 in Queens. This institution was then under the direction of Klaus Biesenbach, who took over the management of LA MOCA in 2018 (the role of Biesenbach was recently replaced by that of artistic director).
Initially, Carlos Viramontes, director of human resources at LA MOCA. Viramontes, who arrived at the institution in November 2019, resigned in February, complaining to his colleagues that he could not continue to work in a “hostile environment”. Viramontes claimed to have been retaliated against by Deputy Director Amy Shapiro after relaying her negative comments from colleagues during a ‘360’ performance review, in which one is assessed by his peers and employees as well as his bosses.
Responding to the allegations of the LA TimesLA MOCA spokesperson Sarah Stifler said the institution wished Locks the best and noted, “We are working across our organization to achieve our IDEA vision, taking tangible and immediate steps that include workshops anti-racism, an internal survey on remuneration and a position audit, formation of a multilingual working group and creation of a dedicated position at IDEA. The museum also said an outside investigation determined Shapiro had not mistreated Viramontes, but acknowledged that the review process was problematic.
MOCA had a few difficult years before the overwhelming Covid-19 pandemic. In early 2018, he canceled his annual fundraising gala after Mark Grotjahn turned down the gala award, citing a lack of diversity among the winners. A month later, director Philippe Vergne controversially fired popular chief curator Helen Molesworth before resigning himself. In 2019, the museum was forced to close its Pacific Design Center outpost and then fight staff efforts to unionize, which ultimately were to success.