Cecile Shellman is the owner and president of Cecile Shellman Consulting, a Pittsburgh-based private consulting firm providing museums and other arts institutions around the country with customized diversity, equity, accessibility, inclusion programming and visioning plans that “ensure that museums are truly for all.”
Driven by a lifelong passion for equitable access to art, Ms. Shellman completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting at Brigham Young University in 1991, and spent time as a commercial artist and then as a gallery director before exiting the field to find better opportunities to use visual arts as a medium for education and communication. She found herself drawn to museum studies as a way to highlight and guide the narratives that art objects present to viewers, and in 2001, after going back to school as a mature student, Ms. Shellman was awarded a graduate certificate in museum studies by Harvard University.
After her graduate studies, Ms. Shellman continued working in the museum field in New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, working for museums in management and executive leadership positions. As a woman of color, she found she was one of few who served in decision-making roles where she was employed and resolved to try to change this phenomenon. Ms. Shellman is the former artistic director for visual arts and exhibitions at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture and spent three years with Pittsburgh Public Schools as the district’s culturally responsive art education project manager, in addition to working for the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, which include the Carnegie Museums of Art, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, the Andy Warhol Museum and Carnegie Science Center.
Ms. Shellman has been the head of Cecile Shellman Consulting since 2018, when she built her business from scratch. She recalls that at the time, she had never seen another consultant focusing specifically on diversity, equity and inclusion in the museum field, and was motivated by her experiences as a woman of color in the art industry and a desire to modernize and expand the ways museums interact with patrons.
Consulting has brought her to museums nationally and internationally, where she works to strengthen museums’ current inclusion efforts. It’s not enough to have aspirational statements about the desire for more inclusion or welcoming behaviors. Museums have never been neutral, and need to be strong in their resolve to be places free from oppression for all their employees, visitors and potential visitors.
In recognition of her outstanding work on behalf of museums and cultural institutions, Ms. Shellman has featured prominently in several museum organizational profiles, is a popular session presenter at national conferences, a contributor to several articles and blogs, and was named senior diversity fellow at the American Alliance of Museums in 2019. She contributed a chapter to the book “Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion in Museums,” published by Littlefield & Rowman in 2019 and edited by Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole and Ms. Laura Lott.
Ms. Shellman hopes to continue to consult for years to come, noting that her current focus includes guiding clients to create more inclusivity in their executive boards, staff and governing bodies, as well as equity, accessibility and inclusion in every aspect of museum work and life. She emphasizes that diversity and inclusion take hard work and continuous effort and strives to help preserve the humanity and dignity of individuals and their cultural and artistic legacies in genuinely transformative and meaningful ways.