Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Indianapolis Museum of Art tries to defend the indefensible

What were they thinking?

Or, what did Charles Venable think he could get away with this time? Wasn't it bad enough that he priced the IMA out of reach for most people by switching from free admission to $18? Or that he walled off the grounds to all but paying customers? That he rebranded the historic art-focused institution as the content-free "Newfields"? Or that he discontinued the IMA's popular societies for horticulture, Asian art, etc.? That former associate curator Kelli Morgan, a Black woman who was hired to diversity the museum’s galleries, resigned last summer citing a toxic and discriminatory work environment?

He has to go and say outloud that the museum's core membership is white, and it requires a new person in management who will work to uphold that "traditional" ideal.

The fallout from that horrendously tone-deaf job description continues locally, nationally, and internationally. Newfields employees are on record opposing him. Community leaders have signed a petition against him. The New York Times has written about the fiasco, as has The Guardian.

Even Brian Payne, president and CEO of the Central Indiana Community Foundation, president of the Indianapolis Foundation, and visionary who created the Cultural Trail, has penned a letter opposing the initiative.

(The CICF, in contrast with the IMA, has as its mission "to mobilize people, ideas and investments to make this a community where all individuals have equitable opportunity to reach their full potential—no matter place, race or identity."

Local business leaders must be in panic mode.

UPDATE Not one director or trustee of the IMA had the courage to sign this letter, issued in response today, 17 February 2021. The only good news? Venable is gone.

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