Just As I Was Wondering About How Things Turned Out

Last week I was flying into to Indianapolis to attend the Midwest Arts Xpo conference and I idly wondered how things had turned out at Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields after their job posting controversy back in 2021.

If you don’t recall/weren’t aware, the job description said the museum was ““…seeking a director who would work not only to attract a more diverse audience but to maintain its “traditional, core, white art audience.’”

The implication that diversity efforts would be limited to activities that didn’t alienate the existing white audience was not well received by the greater arts and cultural community.

Coincidentally to my musing, last week the museum announced that Belinda Tate who had served as executive director Kalamazoo Institute of Arts since 2014 would be the new director starting in November.

According to the article, even after the 2021 controversy saw the resignation and replacement of the CEO & President, an uncomfortable culture remained which hopefully Tate and current CEO/President Colette Pierce Burnette, who started in August 2022, can successfully work together on shifting.

Since Venable’s departure, Newfields has also faced allegations that it had facilitated a “toxic” and discriminatory work culture at the museum, according to an open letter from Kelli Morgan, its former associate curator of American art. In the letter, Morgan described a “racist rant” from one board museum member.

Tate must contend with the legacy of Venable’s polarizing vision for the museum’s programming which, according to his critics, prioritized blockbuster exhibitions. Oft-cited examples include a show devoted to Bugatti cars and the Winterlights festival, which involved stringing flora in the garden with colorful lights during holiday time and charging $25 for entry.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


Leave a Comment