Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields chief resigns amid job posting controversy

In addition to the resignation, the boards announced a series of steps that would be taken.

Posted: Feb 17, 2021 5:35 PM
Updated: Feb 17, 2021 5:38 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The president of The Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields resigned on Wednesday, days after the institution apologized for posting a job listing seeking a new director who would maintain the museum’s “traditional, core, white art audience.”

The museum’s board of trustees and board of governors said in a public letter that Charles Venable’s resignation was “necessary for Newfields to become the cultural institution our community needs and deserves.” It said Chief Financial Officer Jerry Wise will serve as the interim president.

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In the job posting, the museum said it was seeking a director to “attract a broader and more diverse audience while maintaining the Museum’s traditional, core, white art audience.” The posting sparked letters from a group of Newfields employees and community art leaders calling for Venable’s resignation.

Venable said the decision to use “white” had been intentional to show the museum would not abandon its existing audience as it worked toward more diversity. It was a bullet point on the fourth page of the six-page job description.

“I think the fact you can read that one sentence and now reading it as a single sentence or a clause, I certainly can understand and regret that it could be taken that way,” he told The Indianapolis Star. “It certainly was not the intent at all.”

In addition to the resignation, the boards announced a series of steps that would be taken.

“We will engage an independent committee to conduct a thorough review of Newfields’ leadership, culture and our own Board of Trustees and Board of Governors, with the goal of inclusively representing our community and its full diversity,” it said.

Newfields also will expand “curatorial representations” of exhibitions and programming of, for and by Black and Latino people, women, people with disabilities, the LGBTQ community and “other marginalized identities,” the letter said.

The museum also will include additional free or reduced-fee days to increase its access, form an advisory committee consisting of artists, activists and members of communities of color “whose primary function is to hold leadership accountable to these goals,” ands continue anti-racist training for its boards, staff, and volunteers.

Newfields is the Indianapolis museum’s 152-acre campus which includes gardens and an art and nature park.

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