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Indianapolis arts community responds to Newfields’ 30-day action plan after ‘white audience’ job posting

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Newfields’ Board of Trustees on Friday announced its action plan aimed at the institution becoming empathetic, multicultural and anti-racist.

The plan was initiated after a job description in a listing for director of the Indianapolis Museum of Art explained one of the job duties as “maintaining the Museum’s traditional, core, white art audience.”

The museum’s former president, Charles Venable, resigned in February after dozens of Newfields staff called for his removal.

Newfields’ leadership developed the action plan after listening to staff, volunteers, docents, community members, and local artists, according to a release sent to News 8.

“The magnitude of this plan is impressive. It shows that they are taking it seriously that they have mobilized and put incredible focus and effort into getting to this point,” said Julie Goodman, president and CEO of the Arts Council of Indianapolis.

The plan includes:

  • A $20 million endowment dedicated to the works of marginalized artists
  • More diversity on the Board of Trustees
  • Organization-wide diversity, equity, inclusion, and access training
  • New programming series
  • Community partnerships
  • Free membership offerings

The board said its key priority is “advancing diversity, equity, inclusion and access.” The action plan will continue to be developed as “new areas for action are identified by the community and Newfields’ staff and leadership,” according to the board.

Following the controversy, arts nonprofit GangGang pulled its exhibit “EIGHTEEN” that was set to be shown at Newfields as part of a Black Lives Matter exhibition.

“GANGGANG is appreciative of the time and energy put forth by the staff and leadership at Newfields over the last 30 days. We look forward to delving into the words of the institution and the actions to come in the following months and years. Change requires time, collaboration and intentionality. We are encouraged by the commitment and look forward to seeing how it unfolds for 46208, for creatives, for broader Indianapolis and for the Black community, specifically.”

Mali Jeffers and Alan Bacon, GANGGANG co-founders

Kimberly Ewing is an artist and trains people on implicit bias, diversity and anti-racism. She says there is a harsh reality that Newfields will have to face in order to move forward.

“You have to be willing to accept that. There are going to be some Black artists that will never ever have anything to do with Newfields. That is just going to be it, period,” said Ewing. She also says that there could be other people or businesses that chose to not do business with them because of the controversy. “But there are going to be some people that say this is an opportunity for change,” she said.

Newfields is an 152-acre campus on the White River in Indianapolis that includes the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park and the Lilly House, as well as an historic garden and properties Columbus, Indiana.

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