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Indianapolis museum apologizes for 'white art' job listing

The Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields has apologized for a job listing seeking a new director who would maintain the museum’s “traditional, core, white art audience.”

Posted: Feb 15, 2021 9:08 AM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields has apologized for a job listing seeking a new director who would maintain the museum’s “traditional, core, white art audience.”

The wording was a bullet point in a six-page job description that also said the museum was working to attract a more diverse audience. However, museum officials removed the word “white” over the weekend following outrage, including from guest curators of an exhibit on a Black Lives Matter mural in Indianapolis.

The museum’s director and chief executive, Charles Venable, said the decision to use “white” had been intentional to show the museum wouldn’t abandon its existing audience as it works for more diversity.

“I think the fact you can read that one sentence and now reading it as a single sentence or a clause, I certainly can understand and regret that it could be taken that way," he told The Indianapolis Star. "It certainly was not the intent at all.”

Still, Malina Simone Jeffers and Alan Bacon, guest curators for an upcoming exhibit called, “DRIP: Indy’s #BlackLivesMatter Street Mural,” said Saturday that they would drop out over the posting and asked the museum to apologize to other Black artists. They run GANGGANG, an Indianapolis-based art incubator for artists of color.

Another critic was Kelli Morgan, a Black former associate curator who was hired to diversify galleries but resigned over the summer citing a toxic and discriminatory work environment. She said the wording illustrates an incorrect sentiment that raising up art from African or Indigenous artists would somehow exclude white people and that words like “traditional” and “core” were also stand-ins for white.

“The entire job description is chock full of diversity language, but it’s completely disconnected from what that language actually means because if you were invested, if you care, right, if you were knowledgeable about all this DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) language that you’ve got up and through this job description, that sentence would have never been there,” Morgan told the newspaper. “You can’t do both.”

The position description, first posted in January on a nonprofit search firm with listings from around the world, now reads “traditional core art audience.”

Newfields is the Indianapolis museum's 152-acre campus which includes gardens and an art and nature park.

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