Indianapolis museum president resigns after ‘white art’ job listing


The president of the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields has resigned after the institution posted a job listing seeking a new head who would maintain the museum’s “traditional, core, white art audience,” according to a report.

“We are sorry. We have made mistakes. We have let you down,” the museum board said in a statement, The Indianapolis Star reported.

“We are ashamed of Newfields’ leadership and of ourselves. We have ignored, excluded, and disappointed members of our community and staff. We pledge to do better. For those expressing outrage and frustration—we are listening,” it added.

The Board of Trustees and the Board of Governors — which posted the statement to the Newfields’ website Wednesday — thanked Charles Venable for his service and said his resignation was necessary for the museum to meet the community’s needs.

“I’m not able to talk right now,” Venable told the news outlet after resigning, adding that he would not be able to talk in the future.

Jerry Wise, the chief financial officer, will be the interim president, according to the newspaper.

Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields
The controversial wording was in a bullet point in a six-page job description that also said the museum was working to attract a more diverse audience.
Alamy Stock Photo

A Newfields rep told the outlet in an email that the institution is not taking interviews at this time – and did not answer questions about the terms of Venable’s departure and whether he was responsible for the “traditional, core, white art audience” language in the listing.

The wording was a bullet point in a six-page job description that also said the museum was working to attract a more diverse audience.

However, museum officials removed the word “white” over the weekend following outrage, including from guest curators of an exhibit on a Black Lives Matter mural in Indianapolis.

Venable told The Indianapolis Star earlier that the decision to use “white” had been intentional to show the museum wouldn’t abandon its existing audience as it works for more diversity.

“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 outlet this week. “It certainly was not the intent at all.”

Danicia Monét, the organizer and urban planner behind an open letter from the community, told the paper that she was pleased Newfields is hearing people’s concerns but said more needs to be done.

Wednesday’s statement from Newfields’ boards listed actions they are taking to show the community they are listening, including working with an independent committee to review the leadership, culture and boards.

“Newfields is yours and we pledge to make the necessary changes to ensure we can regain your trust and respect,” the statement read.


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