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Erie Art Museum Director Pushed Out Following Allegations of Sexual Misconduct

The Erie Art Museum in Pennsylvania (via Wikimedia Commons)

Joshua Helmer is no longer the executive director of Pennsylvania’s Erie Art Museum, the museum’s board of directors announced today, January 13. His expulsion follows a New York Times article published on Friday that revealed allegations of sexual misconduct made against him during his tenure at the Erie Art Museum and the Philadelphia Museum Art.

“Joshua Helmer is no longer employed at the Erie Art Museum,” the museum said in its statement. “The Museum appreciates, in advance, the community’s support as we move forward.”

The museum provided no other details. A comment was not immediately available from Helmer.

The museum’s announcement came as backlash against Helmer intensified over the weekend. An online petition calling for Helmer’s expulsion from his job the Erie had garnered 2,700 signatures prior to his dismissal. “Whatever benefit this man provides the art museum pales in comparison to the damage that he has done to women,” the petition read.

Nine women have accused Helmer of making advances toward them at the workplace while attempting to lure some of them with his power to help them achieve promotions. Four of the women acknowledged they entered consensual relationships with Helmer, two of whom reported directly to him at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The two women told the Times that Helmer warned them not to report their relationships to the institution, as the relationships were in violation of museum policy.

At the Erie, Helmer invited a college student working at the museum to his house, and she says she was targeted after she refused. She told the Times that Helmer later called her “the most useless intern” the museum had.

In February of 2018, Helmer resigned from the Philadelphia Museum of Art for undisclosed reasons. Last year, the museum barred Helmer from entering the building, according to the Times‘s report.

In an earlier statement, the Erie said that it found “no issues” while probing Helmer’s background before hiring him. “The Erie Art Museum Board of Directors takes seriously all allegations of misconduct,” the board said in a statement on Friday night. “Prior to offering Mr. Helmer the position at the Erie Art Museum, the Board, with the help of an employment consultant, conducted due diligence including background checks. No issues were identified during our due diligence. The Board will make further comment as appropriate.”