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*Charles Venable. Photo: Newfields.
*Charles Venable. Photo: Newfields.

Charles Venable Steps Down as Head of Indianapolis Museum of Art

Charles Venable, president of Newfields, the campus that is home to the Indiana Museum of Art, has resigned after an insensitive job posting by the institution on a recruiting site drew public outrage. Venable earlier this week edited and then apologized for the January advertisement on the website of search firm m/Oppenheim, for a director capable of maintaining the IMA’s “traditional, core, white art audience” while seeking to reach new, diverse audiences.

The posting, which went relatively unnoticed until February 12, sparked a public call for Venable’s resignation, released February 16, signed by eighty-five Newfields employees and members of its board of governors; additionally, more than two thousand artists, arts leaders, and former museum employees, ranging from the chief curator of the Andy Warhol Museum to a woman who described herself as the “mother of biracial, art-loving boys,” over the preceding weekend signed an open letter demanding Venable be removed.

“We are ashamed of Newfields’ leadership and of ourselves,” the museum’s board of trustees and board of governors said in a statement on the institution’s website yesterday, in which they acknowledged that they had accepted Venable’s resignation, which they cited as “necessary” in order for the museum to move forward. “We have ignored, excluded, and disappointed members of our community and staff. We pledge to do better.”

Venable, the museum’s director and CEO since 2012, and president of Newfields for just weeks, had previously told the New York Times that the use of the word white was intentional and that it had been meant to indicate that the museum would not forsake its established audience as it worked to become more inclusive. The institution, which is located in a largely Black neighborhood but whose board of governors and board of trustees are mainly white, has been struggling with issues surrounding diversity for years, as embodied most recently by the departure earlier this year of curator Kelli Morgan. Brought on in 2018 to oversee the musuem’s diversity initiative, Morgan resigned this past summer, citing a “toxic” workplace.

Jerry Wiese, the museum’s CFO, will serve as president of Newfields until a suitable replacement is found.