Charles Venable resigned last week as the head of the Indianapolis Museum of Art Newfields (IMA) over a racially biased phrase in a job posting. The original job posting used the words “core, white art audience”. The phrase has since been replaced with “traditional core art audience”.

Here’s a screenshot of the posting before, the change:

source: Internet Archive WayBack Machine

On February 13th, the museum tweeted about the incident before Venable’s resignation:

A few days later, a letter was released from the IMA Board of Trustees and Board of Governers. Here’s the opening of the letter:

“We are sorry. We have made mistakes. We have let you down.

We are ashamed of Newfields’ leadership and of ourselves. We have ignored, excluded, and disappointed members of our community and staff. We pledge to do better.”

The statement said a detailed plan will be released in 30 days, but IMA is immediately taking action in a few ways:

  • they accepted Dr. Charles Venable’s resignation as President of Newfields
  • they named Chief Financial Officer Jerry Wise as the Interim President of Newfields
  • they’re hiring an independent committee to do a “thorough review” of leadership, culture and Board of Trustees and Board of Governors
  • they are changing the admission policy and adding more free and discounted days to be more accessible to all members of the community
  • they are forming a community advisory committee of artists, activists and members of communities of color to help hold leadership accounting to the new goals
  • they will “expand exhibitions and programming of/for/by Black, Latino/a/x, Indigenous, Women, People with Disabilities, LGBTQIA, and other marginalized identities”
  • the Boards, staff, and volunteers will attend ongoing anti-racist training

The unfortunate use of biased job description language has affected future exhibitions too. DRIP: Indy’s #BlackLivesMatter Street Mural, set to start in April, is canceled. The co-founders of GANGGANG, an art incubator for artists of color told the NY Times:

“Our exhibition cannot be produced in this context and this environment. 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, GANGGANG will not continue as guest curators for this exhibition.”

Why I Wrote This

Ongig’s mission is to remove all bias, including race, from your job descriptions. Check out Ongig’s Text Analyzer if you’d like a cloud-based software tool to write more inclusive job content.

Shout-Outs

  1. Head of Indiana museum resigns after job ad sought a director to uphold its ‘traditional, core, white art audience’ (by Ganesh Setty)
  2. A Public Statement from Discover Newfields
  3. Newfields – Indianapolis Museum of Art Director – position description – final (by Internet Archive)
  4. 1,500+ Call for Museum President’s Removal After Job Posting Cites “Core, White Art Audience” (by Valentina De Liscia)
  5. Indianapolis Museum of Art Apologizes for Insensitive Job Posting (by Sarah Bahr)

by in Diversity and Inclusion

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