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4 members of Newfields Board of Governors resign amid continuing controversy

Four members of the Newfields board of governors resign

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Amid a continuing controversy after the departure of the leader of an Indianapolis art and nature museum, four members of the Newfields Board of Governors resigned on Monday, a former member confirmed on Wednesday to News 8.

The resignations follow the November departure of a woman who was the president and chief executive officer, and four members of the Board of Trustees, which runs operations at the museum.

In a sudden act, Colette Pierce Burnette left the top leadership job of the art and nature museum on Nov. 10. She’d taken the job in Aug. 1, 2022, becoming the first Black woman to chair the Newfields Board of Trustees. Her appointment came after the February 2021 resignation of Charles Venable. He resigned after a controversial job listing that explained one of the job duties as “maintaining the Museum’s traditional, core, white art audience.”

The departure of Burnette led to backlash from dozens of protestors and a strong statement against the decision from nearly 20 community organizations.

On Wednesday, Chris Gahl, the executive vice president and chief marketing officer of the city’s tourism group Visit Indy, confirmed he and Malina Simone Bacon, Isaac Bamgbose and Barry Wormser resigned from the Board of Governors, which focuses on advocacy and engagement at the museum.

A representative with Newfields also confirmed those four members resigned but did not comment further on the matter.

The representative did provide a point of clarification about the role of the Board of Governors and the Board of Trustees in the email to News 8.

“The Board of Trustees is the sole governing body of Newfields with fiduciary responsibility,” A Newfields spokesperson said. “The Board of Governors is a non-governing cohort of volunteers that help the institution define programming and events for all Newfields constituents.”

Barry Wormser independently confirmed he resigned in an email to News 8 but declined to comment further. Wormser, the principal attorney for Wormser Legal, “exclusively practices business, securities, and real estate law,” according to his company bio.

Bacon is the co-founder and executive director of GANGGANG, a creative agency focused on building equity. The GANGGANG website said, “We’re investing in the creative economy directly, paying the culture back with an intentional reparational slant. Creatives of color continue to be underrepresented and underrecognized for their contribution to culture. 

Bamgbose is the founder, president and CEO of New City Development Partners. The real estate development company’s website said the group, “leverage(s) our real estate development experience and market knowledge to create exceptional developments that transform culture into a sense of place and belonging.”

All four members of the Board of Governors remained on the Newfields website as of 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Newfields dates back to an art exhibition on Nov. 7, 1883, at the English Hotel on circle in downtown Indianapolis. That led to the Art Association, which in 1969 became the Indianapolis Museum of Art and in 1970 opened in a new facility at 38th Street and Michigan Road. The campus grew, and in 2017 was renamed Newfields, A Place for Nature and Arts.

Chris Gahl (left) and Barry Wormser. Provided Photos from Visit Indy and Wormser Legal

Previous coverage

Two leading Indianapolis-area community groups are demanding answers following the sudden resignation of the Newfields President and CEO Dr. Colette Burnette. (WISH Photo)
Two leading Indianapolis-area community groups are demanding answers following the sudden resignation of the Newfields President and CEO Dr. Colette Burnette. (WISH Photo)