27.01.2023

Indianapolis art museum apologises for job ad about ‘maintaining core white audience’

The Indianapolis Museum of Art has apologised for the wording of a job posting that sought a new director who could maintain its “traditional, core, white art audience.”

The job listing said the museum, also known as Newfields, wanted to attract a new and more diverse group of visitors. Museum officials told the New York Times that while the wording was “intentional” it was one bullet point in a six-page job description highlighting this mission.

Director and chief executive Charles L Venable, told The Indianapolis Star: “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. It certainly was not the intent at all.”

The museum edited the posting by deleting the word “white”, but for some artists linked to the museum the damage has already been done.

Malina Simone Jeffers and Alan Bacon, guest curators for an upcoming exhibit called “DRIP: Indy’s #BlackLivesMatter Street Mural,” told the Associated Press they were dropping out until action was taken to rectify the situation.

“Our exhibition cannot be produced in this context and this environment,” they were quoted as saying. “We have asked Newfields to revisit this exhibition to include an apology to all artists involved, the opportunity for the 18 visual artists to show their other, personal works with appropriate compensation, and an intentional strategy from Newfields to display more works from more Black artists in perpetuity.

“Until then, GANGGANG will not continue as guest curators for this exhibition.” GangGang is a cultural development firm that promotes artists of colour.

“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,” Kelli Morgan, a former associate curator, said.

According to NYT, Morgan, a Black woman, had resigned her post in 2018 citing a “toxic” and “discriminatory” culture.

The Indianapolis incident isn’t an isolated one. In July 2020, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art in Washington, DC, was accused of racism by former staff.

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