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13 WTHR Indianapolis | Indianapolis Local News & Weather

President of Newfields steps down following open letter from staff calling for change

Newfields announced Wednesday that President Dr. Charles Venable has stepped down following an open letter published by a group of 85 Newfields.

INDIANAPOLIS — Newfields announced Wednesday that President Dr. Charles Venable has stepped down following a call for change in an open letter published by a group of 85 Newfields staff and stakeholders.  

The open letter followed outrage after a job posting mentioned one of the duties for the director position would be to maintain the museum's "white art audience."

The job posting said the role of the director position would be to find "...innovative ways that attract a broader and more diverse audience while maintaining the Museum's traditional, core, white art audience."  

The job posting was first shared by a reporter with the New York Times and has been widely criticized online.  

In a statement Wednesday, Newfields said, "We are ashamed of Newfields’ leadership and of ourselves. We have ignored, excluded, and disappointed members of our community and staff. We pledge to do better." 

The announcement goes on to list how Newfields is taking action, starting with the resignation of President Venable: 

For those expressing outrage and frustration—we are listening. We are taking action immediately in the following ways:

  • This morning, we accepted Dr. Charles Venable’s resignation as President of Newfields. We thank him for his service and agree that his resignation is necessary for Newfields to become the cultural institution our community needs and deserves. Chief Financial Officer Jerry Wise will serve as the Interim President of Newfields.
  • 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.
  • We will review and expand the current admission policy to include additional free or reduced-fee days to increase access to Newfields and ensure that Newfields is accessible to all members of our community.
  • We will form a city-wide community advisory committee consisting of artists, activists and members of communities of color whose primary function is to hold leadership accountable to these goals.
  • We will expand curatorial representations of exhibitions and programming of/for/by Black, Latino/a/x, Indigenous, Women, People with Disabilities, LGBTQIA, and other marginalized identities.
  • Our Boards, Newfields full staff, and volunteers will participate in ongoing anti-racist training using a developmental approach and assessment.

As we guide the organization through this crucial process, we will listen to and partner with members of the community. Newfields is yours and we pledge to make the necessary changes to ensure we can regain your trust and respect. We commit to being held accountable, as we hold the institution accountable, to ensure that Newfields is diverse, equitable, accessible and inclusive.

In the next 30 days, we will publicly share a detailed action plan, with specific deadlines, for each of the commitments made above.

Sincerely,

The Newfields Board of Trustees and Board of Governors