An independent investigator will look into an allegation of workplace discrimination against the Frog Hollow Vermont Craft Gallery in Burlington, according to Beth Danon, a lawyer for the nonprofit that operates the store.
Frog Hollow hires Denise Bailey, a lawyer from Montpellier, to investigate allegations of discrimination made by a former deputy director of the gallery. The Church Street Marketplace store displays and sells the work of Vermont artisans and craftspeople.
Misoo Bang, an artist from South Burlington, posted on social media this week allegations of “multiple incidents of discrimination” against her by a supervisor at Frog Hollow. Bang, 41, also described the incidents to Seven days, saying they happened during the three years she worked there. She resigned in March.
Bang, who is of Korean descent, said the manager’s alleged comments were made in a “very relaxed and cheerful manner.”
The remarks included the supervisor telling Bang that for Halloween she had dressed up as a “Chinese slut with a pregnant belly and my boyfriend was an American soldier,” according to Bang.
On another occasion, when a parade of people dressed in traditional Chinese clothing passed the gallery, Bang said, the same supervisor “was very excited.” She said, ‘Misoo, it doesn’t matter if you want to join your people. “” Bang said the manager also suggested that Bang’s ‘exotic’ appearance was behind his strong sales in the gallery. The remark rejected Bang’s expertise and knowledge as a painter with a master’s degree in art, Bang said.
âIt was just my Asian character, my skin color, to her,â Bang said. âBecause people think you are exotic, they want to buy you stuff. ”
Danon, lawyer for Frog Hollow, said that “much of what has been alleged has been denied”. The case is confidential as it is a personnel issue involving employment, she said. Danon said she recommended to the board that the allegations be investigated by an independent party “who will look at the matter in a new light and have no interest in the outcome.”
âIf you have one side that says, ‘It was said’ and the other side, ‘I didn’t say it,’ you need to investigate thoroughly,â she said.
Bang expressed dismay at Frog Hollow’s decision to hire an investigator.
âThey can do whatever they want,â she said. âThis is what I went through. When I heard that they had hired a private investigator, I thought to myself, Wow. Is that your solution?”
Bang’s alternative solution is that Frog Hollow should strive to create a “better environment for staff members – a safe, welcoming environment”. She said the comments made her feel “like someone slapped me in the face. It almost kept me from responding right away. It made my brain go blank.”
Bang said she reconsidered her job at Frog Hollow after six Asian women were killed in Atlanta in March 2021.
“I had this epiphany of, I don’t want to work here as an exotic asian woman with the way [her supervisor] see me more,” she said.
Bang said to himself, “I have been subjected to racism here too, so I want to stop lying to myself and quit my job.” ”
Bang currently teaches at Shelburne Craft School, where she is the Director of the Equity and Inclusion Art Program.
After leaving Frog Hollow, Bang shared his concerns with Board Chair Carol MacDonald. They had correspondence for many months, according to copies of emails Bang shared with Seven days. Correspondence continued until early December and included at least one other board member and staff, according to emails shared by Bang.
âI tried for eight months to ask them to update me,â Bang said. She concluded, “They’re waiting for me to shut up. They’re waiting for me to forget about it.”
On Sunday, she described her experience on social media.
An online petition was launched Wednesday calling on Frog Hollow’s board to tackle “anti-Asian abuse and racist management” at its Church Street gallery; it had 855 signatures as of 10:25 p.m. Wednesday. Bang is holding a protest outside Frog Hollow on Saturday, December 18, from noon to 5 p.m. She said she was asking people to boycott the gallery.
The board of directors of Frog Hollow released a statement on Wednesday that reads, in part:
âFrog Hollow staff, members and the general public need to be assured that the board takes these allegations seriously and is committed to ensuring an inclusive, fair and welcoming workplace and public space. ”
The press release also announces the next investigation.
Danon said the investigation will focus on allegations that have been posted on social media and “allegations that have come to us in different forms, as they may be different from what is happening on social media.” .
Frog Hollow heard concerns from other employees, she said, adding that they “were not related to discrimination.”