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An employee of the Kemper Museum opens up about the museum’s reaction



“I do not trust that the museum will make any effort to publicly or privately change course in its stance on immigration, make clear its stance on white nationalism, or break its connection to UMB Bank,” says the employee, who wishes to remain anonymous out of fear of retribution.

The Kemper Museum in Kansas City, Missouri has been targeted by The FANG Collective and other activist groups over their connection to UMB Bank.

UMB Bank represents the bondholders of the Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, Rhode Island. After the Facility agreed to end their contract with United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), UMB Bank sued Central Falls elected officials and the Wyatt’s Board of Directors to force the Facility to continue to hold people detained by ICE.

Several UMB Bank officials sit on the Board of The Kemper Museum, including UMB Bank CEO Mariner Kemper, whose parents founded the museum.

This letter, from an anonymous Kemper Museum employee was received by FANG on September 10, 2019:

“Since August 15th, I have not felt comfortable or safe at work due to the ongoing efforts of the museum board, executive staff members, and administration staff to diminish and inaccurately report to the public and to the museum staff on The Kemper Museum’s connections to UMB Bank, after reports of UMB Bank’s affiliations with the Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, Rhode Island surfaced.

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“In order to understand how UMB Bank and The Kemper Museum are connected, one only has to look at The Kemper Family Foundation. The Kemper Family Foundation is administered by UMB Bank. UMB Bank transfers monies to the Kemper Family Foundation and then on to the Kemper Museum. The Kemper Museum’s majority donor is the Kemper Family Foundation, to which UMB Bank has made donations.

“The Kemper Family Foundation gives money to every major arts organization in Kansas City, Missouri, has political ties, and has deep connections to art collectors who donate to, or borrow from, the museum on a vast scale.

“Executive Director Sean O’Harrow, and Communications Director Breeze Richardson have done everything they possibly can to convince workers that the degree to which the museum is affiliated to the bank is so vast that there is no possible link. They have also done everything they can to gaslight us into believing that we too are linked to wrongdoings made by the federal government by ‘having bank accounts,’ or ‘being taxpayers.’

“The ‘all staff’ meetings among various departments; private one on ones conducted by O’Harrow, Richardson, and members of management; the little outreach the museum has done with the general public; inaccurately reporting phone calls and emails made by the public; and privately contacting protestors or activists to have ‘open-dialogue’ sessions at the museum are in no way earnest or for good but rather tactics to sway private and public opinion to the museums favor. (Not to mention that these tactics are commonly used by union busters.)

“I do not trust that the museum will make any effort to publicly or privately change course in its stance on immigration, make clear its stance on white nationalism, or break its connection to UMB Bank. The open dialogue sessions within the museum will be utilized to control conversations with people from the general public. I fully believe that there will be no effort made to state facts about the Wyatt Detention facility’s bonds through UMB Bank, UMB’s ongoing legal suit against Central Falls, nor any specific mention of UMB’s affiliation with ICE during upcoming museum open dialogues. Every effort will be made by the museum to deter these topics and shift conversations to a broader scope.

“With grants in hand, the museum will hide under the veil of being an environment of trust and openness while continuing its back door policies through its familial foundation, connected to a family founded bank, which will continue to profit from the detainment of immigrants, family separation, and the ongoing crisis at the border.

“Worker demands have been made clear during all staff meetings. Here is a list of various demands that staff have verbalized in these meetings. Demands are listed in no particular order:

  • UMB Bank CEO Mariner Kemper step down from the board of the museum and that no current or former UMB Bank employees stand on the board at the museum.
  • A public statement issued by The Kemper Museum stating, “The Kemper Museum does not condone the detainment of immigrants,” and an additional public statement issued by The Kemper Museum clarifying the museums stance on white nationalism.
  • An end to continued last minute “all-staff” meetings in which staff have been interrupted during working hours, mealtimes, and breaks; where staff have been subjected to political/financial/philanthropic jargon leading to emotional and psychological strain within the workplace.
  • A direct action taken by the museums Executive Director Sean O’Harrow and Chairperson Mary Kemper Wolf to speak with protesters in person if protestors are on the grounds of the museum.
  • UMB bank halt its legal actions toward the city of Central Falls, Rhode Island, and that any financial recourse incurred be absolved by UMB Bank itself.
  • An accurate report of all phone calls and emails made by the public concerning these matters that includes the date and time.
  • A report on all news articles written about the Wyatt Detention Facility to be generated and continuously updated by administrative staff that is shared with all staff members for the foreseeable future.
  • A list of specific “open dialogue” actions the museum is pursuing with artists and activists in the community, a timeline of these events, and notations on how and why each moderator will be chosen.
  • Accurate meeting notes from all “all staff” meetings compiled and shared among the entire staff of the museum.”

This letter was originally published by The FANG Collective here.