INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis Museum of Art in Newfields posted a job advertisement apologizing for what it was looking for a director who not only works to attract a more diverse audience, but also to maintain its “traditional, central, white art audience.”
The museum’s director and executive director, Charles L. Venable, said in an interview on Saturday that the decision to use “white” was intentional and stated that it was intended to indicate that the museum was not part of its existing audience of abandoning his efforts to promote diversity, equity and inclusion.
“I deeply regret that the choice of language clearly did not help reflect our general intention to build our core art audience by welcoming more people in the door,” he said. “We have tried to be transparent that anyone who is going to apply for this job really needs to be committed to DEI efforts in all parts of the museum.”
The museum then revised the position description, which is linked in the listing and now reads “traditional core art audience”.
Venable said it was unfortunate that what he called “the museum’s key commitment to inclusion” had been overshadowed by the wording.
“This is a six-page job description, not a single bullet point,” he said. “We talk a lot about our commitment to diversity in a variety of ways, from collections to programming to hiring.”
But he added, “I can safely say that if we wrote this again, with all the feedback we got, we wouldn’t write it that way.”
Malina Simone Jeffers and Alan Bacon, the guest curators for the museum’s upcoming “DRIP: Indy’s #BlackLivesMatter Street Mural” exhibition, due to open in April, said in a statement on Saturday night that they had decided not to remain as guest curators.
“Our exhibition cannot be produced in this context and in this environment,” said Simone Jeffers and Bacon, the co-founders of GANGGANG, a local art incubator that works to promote color artists. “We asked Newfields to revisit this exhibition to offer an apology to all artists involved, the opportunity for the 18 visual artists to display their other, personal works for fair compensation, and Newfields’s deliberate strategy of more works of more black artists to show, record Unlimited duration. “
“Until then,” they added, “GANGGANG will not continue as a guest curator for this exhibition.”
The incident comes at a time when the museum’s working culture and support for artwork created by non-white artists has come under attack – and amid a national settlement at institutions on how to reform work environments that are in in the past, artists and employees excluded from color.
Kelli Morgan, hired in 2018 to diversify the museum’s galleries, resigned in July, describing the museum’s culture as “toxic” and “discriminatory” in a letter to Venable, board members, artists and the local news media.
Morgan, who served as the museum’s assistant curator for American art, criticized the museum for its lack of educational efforts against racism and implicit bias, a “racial abuse” of a board member that brought her to tears, and an Instagram post that included the one Work by a black artist on a Racial Justice Declaration without consulting him after the museum failed to materially support an exhibition he created.
Venable said at the time that he regretted Morgan’s decision and that the museum had taken steps to become more diverse, but that it would take time.
Morgan, who now works as an independent curator and consultant in Atlanta, said in an interview on Saturday that she was disappointed that despite the fact that the museum has begun training its leaders in diversity, justice, and inclusion, the museum is still the Language in the job description.
“It is clear that there is no investment or attention to what is learned or communicated in the training,” she said. “Because if it were, a job advertisement would not have been written like this, let alone for a museum director.”
Venable said the description was released in January when the museum began its quest to fill the position of director. Under the museum’s new governance structure, Venable will serve as President of Newfields, the museum’s 150 acre campus, and a second person will direct the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
Venable, who has run the museum since 2012, has been criticized for serving a popular audience with programs like an artist-designed mini golf course at the expense of investing in traditional art experiences. He also introduced an enrollment fee of $ 18 at the formerly independent facility in 2015.
Although museums have recently taken steps to diversify their collections and programs following the death of George Floyd in police custody and the Black Lives Matter movement, Morgan said a critical understanding and commitment to diversity in the country’s art institutions is still a long way off .
“Newfields is a very visible, very bad symptom of a much larger cancer,” she added. “Until the museum world is black and white and red and purple and we deal with responsibility for discrimination together, things like this will continue to happen.”