Indianapolis Museum of Art Apologizes for Insensitive Job Posting

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields has edited and apologized for an employment itemizing that stated it was in search of a director who would work not solely to draw a extra various viewers however to take care of its “traditional, core, white art audience.”

The museum’s director and chief govt, Charles L. Venable, stated in an interview on Saturday that the choice to make use of “white” had been intentional and defined that it had been meant to point that the museum wouldn’t abandon its current viewers as half of its efforts towards larger range, fairness and inclusion.

“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,” he stated. “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. efforts in all parts of the museum.”

The museum subsequently revised the place description linked within the itemizing, which now reads “traditional core art audience.”

Venable stated it was unlucky that what he referred to as the museum’s “core commitment to inclusion” had been overshadowed by the phrase alternative.

“This is a six-page job description, not a single bullet point,” he stated. “We talk a lot about our commitment to diversity in all kinds of ways, from the collections to programming to hiring.”

But, he added, “I can certainly say that if we were writing this again, with all the feedback we’ve gotten, we wouldn’t write it that way.”

Malina Simone Jeffers and Alan Bacon, the visitor curators for the museum’s upcoming “DRIP: Indy’s #BlackLivesMatter Street Mural” exhibition, scheduled to open in April, said in a statement on Saturday night that they had decided they could not remain as guest curators.

“Our exhibition cannot be produced in this context and this environment,” said Simone Jeffers and Bacon, the co-founders of GANGGANG, a local art incubator working to elevate artists of color. “We have asked Newfields to revisit this exhibition to include an apology to all artists involved, the opportunity for the 18 visual artists to show their other, personal works with appropriate compensation, and an intentional strategy from Newfields to display more works from more Black artists in perpetuity.”

“Until then,” they added, “GANGGANG will not continue as guest curators for this exhibition.”

The incident comes at a time when the museum’s workplace culture and support for artwork created by nonwhite artists have been under fire — and amid a national reckoning at institutions over how to reform work environments that have in the past excluded artists and employees of color.

Kelli Morgan, who was recruited in 2018 to diversify the museum’s galleries, resigned in July, calling the museum’s culture “toxic” and “discriminatory” in a letter she sent to Venable, as well as to board members, artists and the local news media.

Morgan, who had served as the museum’s associate curator of American art, criticized the museum for its lack of training efforts to address racism and implicit bias, a “racist rant” by a board member that had left her in tears, and an Instagram post that included a Black artist’s work in a racial justice statement without consulting him after the museum failed to substantially support an exhibit he had created.

Venable said at the time that he regretted Morgan’s decision and that the museum had been taking steps to become more diverse, but that it would take time.

Morgan, who is now working 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 had begun training its leaders in diversity, equity and inclusion, it had still included the language in the job description.

“Clearly there’s no investment or attention being paid to what’s being learned or communicated in the training,” she said. “Because if there were, there’s no way a job posting would’ve been written like that, let alone for a museum director.”

Venable said the description had been posted in January, when the museum began its search to fill the director position. Under the museum’s new leadership structure, Venable will serve as the president of Newfields, the museum’s 152-acre campus, and a second person will direct the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

Venable, who has led the museum since 2012, has been criticized for catering to a popular audience with programming like an artist-designed miniature golf course at the expense of investing in traditional art experiences. He also instituted an $18 admission charge at the formerly free institution in 2015.

Though museums have recently taken measures to diversify their collections and programming in the wake of George Floyd’s death in police custody and the Black Lives Matter movement, Morgan said a critical understanding of and commitment to diversity at the nation’s arts institutions remained 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 until we deal collectively with the responsibility for discrimination, things like this will continue to happen.”

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