Newfields apologizes for job posting citing ‘traditional, core, white art audience’

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INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields apologized Saturday after a job posting for a director position used divisive language.

The job posting went up in January and has since been changed. It is for the Director of the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

Under the “other responsibilities” section of the job posting. The original post included the following language:

“…attract a broader and more diverse audience while maintaining the Museum’s traditional, core, white art audience…”

Segment of job description

Newfields released a statement Saturday, apologizing for the wording. They said they acknowledge their current audience is homogenous, but are working to build and diversify it.

Our audience – and most museums’ audiences – have historically been, and currently are, too homogeneous, and we are committed to changing that and intentionally diversifying our audiences. We deeply regret that in our job description, in our attempt to focus on building and diversifying our core audience, our wording was divisive rather than inclusive. Our intention is to continue to build an institution that is truly inclusive. It will be our challenge for years to come to continue building our diversity, equity and inclusion in our hiring, programs, artwork, exhibitions and more, and we are committed to doing so.

Newfields statement

The Arts Council of Indianapolis released a statement, saying they are disappointed by the original job description.

The declaration of interest in maintaining their ‘traditional core, white art audience,’ served to undermine their stated value of inclusivity and desire to ‘attract a broader and more diverse audience’ made in other parts of the description.

Arts Council of Indianapolis

The council went on to say they know that the lack of diversity is not an isolated situation among arts institutions nation-wide. They are working to make progress in racial equity and inclusion, but are frequently reminded just how much work they have to do.

“We want to believe this isn’t who we are, but this is exactly where we are. And it has to change.”

Arts council of Indianapolis

On Saturday, FOX59 spoke with Dr. Kelli Morgan, former Associate Curator of American Art at the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, who resigned in July 2020, citing a ‘toxic’ work environment, where she said she faced discrimination.

Morgan said she learned of the language used in the job posting on Friday and her response to seeing the reaction was, “I was like, oh my god, this is a thing. This is trending right now, but I said, I’m not surprised at all.”

“I said, it wasn’t a mistake. That wasn’t a typo, you know, that wasn’t something someone missed,” she said.

Morgan said she doesn’t feel Newfields’ statement issued Saturday is an apology. “For me it tells the public everything it needs to know about that institution and about that leadership,” she said.

“If there was a genuine investment in being inclusive, that sentence would have never been there and particularly not couched in between all of this diversity language.”

Morgan said she feels this one example highlights a bigger issue facing museums across the country.

“At some point somebody has to do something about it, and not just at Newfields, in the museum field in general. There are curators and museum professionals suffering lawsuit-level discrimination on a daily basis at institutions around the country,” she said.

“It’s toxic. It’s dangerous and it’s unhealthy and I think it’s high time to really shine a light on the fact that it’s happening and on the fact that there are several people who have solutions to it.”

In Morgan’s resignation letter, she wrote, “In February 2017, you personally recruited me from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts where I established myself as a critical-race cultural historian who specializes in American art. You claimed that you were looking for an emerging thought leader who could revamp the American galleries in efforts to make them more culturally relevant to viewers, and that I was indeed that leader.”

Her letter continued on to say, “I’ve watched you both perpetuate and allow the institutional back pedaling and stalling that has regularly undermined the very work that in 2017 you claimed you were recruiting me to do.”

FOX59 reached back out to Newfields with several follow up questions, including whether any steps were taken following Morgan’s resignation.

A spokesperson for the museum told FOX59 it has nothing further to add.

Newfields is a 152-acre campus in Indianapolis that is comprised of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Fairbanks Park, The Garden, Lilly House and Elder Greenhouse.

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