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 in Newfields, after it was revealed that the museum had posted an advertisement asking for a new director was sought who are able to “reach their core, white audiences” while reaching out to more diverse communities in hopes of putting them in the fold. The letter’s signatories include artist Nayland Blake, artist and curator Tiona Nekkia McClodden, and curator Kate Kraczon.
As the New York Times reported yesterday, the offensive phrase was cut out of the ad and Venable publicly apologized for the misstep, saying it was intended to show that the museum intended to keep its core audience as it sought a broader one .
“I deeply regret that the choice of language clearly did not help reflect our overall intention to build our core art audience by welcoming more people in the door,” Venable told the Times. “We tried to be transparent about the fact that anyone who is going to apply for this job really has to be committed to DEI [diversity, equity, and inclusion] Efforts in all parts of the museum. Reaffirming the museum’s “central commitment to inclusion”, Venable noted that the description was six pages long, “not a single bullet point” and noted that the museum is committed to diversity “from the collections” in a number of ways felt about programming to setting. “
Among those who questioned his characterization of both promotional and institutional intent were Malina Simone Jeffers and Alan Bacon, co-founders of the local art incubator GANGGANG, who, after hearing the news, moved away from their positions as guest curators of the upcoming DRIP: Indy’s # BlackLivesMatter Street mural. “The couple urged Newfields to apologize to the exhibiting artists and find other ways to display their work, and to pledge to continue showing the work of black artists more widely. Curator Kelli Morgan, who was called in to oversee the museum’s diversity initiative in 2018, but resigned last summer citing a “toxic” job, was also skeptical of the apology. Morgan was one of the signatories to the letter.
“I can safely say that if we wrote this again, with all the feedback we got, we wouldn’t write it that way,” Venable told the Times.