Kate Riotte served the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut for six years before she was abruptly fired in 2021 because she asked questions about the museum’s proposed racial equity policy.
Riotte earned a degree in museum studies and art history from Juniata College. After graduating, she hoped to start a career in the museum industry. When an opportunity to work for the Wadsworth opened up, she eagerly got on board.
Riotte took nothing for granted. In 2015, she started at the museum in an entry level position in visitor services, and over the next six years, she diligently worked to demonstrate her commitment to the storied institution. By 2021, her years of hard work began to pay off when the Wadsworth promoted her to a curatorial administrator. In her new role, she worked directly for the museum’s chief curator.
Then, in March 2021, she received an email. Riotte’s supervisors asked a working group to review a new webpage detailing the Wadsworth’s “Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion” plan. Riotte had questions about the proposed program. With utmost professionalism, she asked whether equity was a desirable or even attainable goal for a museum like the Wadsworth.
Within two weeks, Wadsworth officials fired Riotte. Museum officials interpreted her questions as expressing hostility toward the program. They informed her that she would need to change her views if she hoped to have a future in the museum industry. Riotte made concerted efforts to study the museum’s policy in order to better comply. But it was too late: officials had already decided that there would be no place for her at the Wadsworth.