There’s already evidence of telling slip-ups from organizations trying, and failing, to authentically show a commitment to diversity and inclusion so many of them publicly professed during the racial justice reckoning of 2020.
Such is the case of the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, which last week issued a job posting for a new director who would “attract a broader and more diverse audience while maintaining the Museum’s traditional, core, white art audience,” reported the Indianapolis Star.
I’m sure you can identify what’s off in that sentence—why does a call to attract a diverse audience have to be qualified with a statement about keeping “core” white people in the fold? Are white people driven away by the sheer presence of non-white people, or something? (That’s a rhetorical question).
Either way, the museum’s leadership apparently didn’t find anything problematic about the language in the posting—until it started making its way across the internet and earned many side-eyes.
Charles Venable, CEO and president of the museum, in response to outraged reactions to the listing, told the Indianapolis Star the intent of the controversial sentence was to show that the institution wanted to add people to its audience and not subtract anyone.
Unfortunately for Venable, the board of trustees and board of governors of the museum seemed to think his subtraction from the equation was necessary. According to NBC News, Venable resigned from his post on Wednesday, in a move the museum’s boards said in a letter was “necessary for Newfields to become the cultural institution our community needs and deserves.”
Naturally, the museum also says it will embark on steps to address its diversity and inclusion.
From NBC News:
“We will engage an independent committee to conduct a thorough review of Newfields’ leadership, culture and our own Board of Trustees and Board of Governors, with the goal of inclusively representing our community and its full diversity,” it said.
Newfields also will expand “curatorial representations” of exhibitions and programming of, for and by Black and Latino people, women, people with disabilities, the LGBTQ community and “other marginalized identities,” the letter said.
The museum also will include additional free or reduced-fee days to increase its access, form an advisory committee consisting of artists, activists and members of communities of color “whose primary function is to hold leadership accountable to these goals,” ands continue anti-racist training for its boards, staff, and volunteers.
Following the problematic line in the job posting, which has since been updated to just read “traditional core audience,” a former Black associate curator of the museum, Kelli Morgan, said the listing reflected the institution’s lack of true investment in diversity.
“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 Indianapolis Star.
Morgan, who was hired by the museum to promote culturally diverse art, left the institution last year after saying it was a discriminatory environment that fails people of color.