Indianapolis Museum of Art Faces Backlash Over Insensitive Job Posting
February 15, 2021
More than six hundred people have signed an open letter calling for the resignation of Charles Venable, director and CEO of the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, after it was revealed that the museum had posted an advertisement seeking a new director capable of maintaining its “core, white audience” while reaching out to more diverse communities in hopes of bringing them into the fold. Among the letter’s signatories are artist Nayland Blake, artist and curator Tiona Nekkia McClodden, and curator Kate Kraczon.
As reported by the New York Times yesterday, the offending phrase was edited out of the ad, and Venable publicly apologized for the misstep, saying that the intention had been to show that the museum planned to retain its core audience as it sought a broader one.
“I deeply regret that the choice of language clearly has not worked out to mirror our overall intention of building our core art audience by welcoming more people in the door,” Venable told the Times. “We were trying to be transparent about the fact that anybody who is going to apply for this job really needs to be committed to D.E.I. [diversity, equity, and inclusion] efforts in all parts of the museum.” Reiterating the museum’s “core commitment to inclusion,” Venable pointed to the fact that the description was six pages long, “not a single bullet point,” and noted that the museum was committed to diversity in a variety of ways, “from the collections to programming to hiring.”
Among those who took issue with his characterization of both ad and institutional intent were Malina Simone Jeffers and Alan Bacon, cofounders of local arts incubator GANGGANG, who on hearing the news withdrew from their positions as guest curators of the museum’s upcoming “DRIP: Indy’s #BlackLivesMatter Street Mural.” The pair called for Newfields to apologize to the exhibiting artists and to find other ways to show their work, and to commit to continue to show the works of Black artists more broadly. Also skeptical of the apology was curator Kelli Morgan, who had been brought in to oversee the museum’s diversity initiative in 2018 but who resigned this past summer citing a “toxic” workplace. Morgan was one of the signatories of the letter.
“I can certainly say that if we were writing this again, with all the feedback we’ve gotten,” Venable told the Times, “we wouldn’t write it that way.”