Posted on February 22, 2021

Indianapolis Art Museum Apologizes for Job Posting

Sarah Bahr, New York Times, February 14, 2021

The Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields has edited and apologized for an employment listing that said it was seeking a director who would work not only to attract a more diverse audience but also to maintain its “traditional, core, white art audience.”

The museum’s director and CEO, Charles Venable, said in an interview Saturday that the decision to use “white” was intentional and explained that it had been intended to indicate that the museum would not abandon its existing audience as part of its efforts toward greater diversity, equity 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 said. [snip}

The museum subsequently revised the position’s description in the listing, which now reads “traditional core art audience.”

Venable said it was unfortunate that what he called the museum’s “core commitment to inclusion” was overshadowed by the word choice.

“This is a six-page job description, not a single bullet point,” he said. “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 Jeffers and Alan Bacon, guest curators for the museum’s upcoming “DRIP: Indy’s #BlackLivesMatter Street Mural” exhibition, slated to open in April, said in a statement Saturday night that they had decided they could no longer do so.

“Our exhibition cannot be produced in this context and this environment,” Jeffers and Bacon, co-founders of GANGGANG, a local art incubator working to elevate artists of color, said. {snip}


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 board members, artists and local media.

Morgan, who had served as the museum’s associate curator of American art, called the museum out for its lack of trainings to address racism and implicit bias, a “racist rant” by a board member that 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.