NEMPN objects to the language used in the position description for the Director of Newfields and stands in solidarity with the current and former staff in their peaceful, open letter to the leadership of their museum and community.
In seeking a director who would maintain the institution’s “traditional, core white art audience” this posting is yet another example of a museum administration applying the language of diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion (DEAI) without committing to the actions and transformative changes required to address racism and white supremacy. By then editing the description amid public outcry to only eliminate the word “white,” Newfields has made it abundantly clear that they are no more committed to the work of DEAI now than when they created the original job posting. It is one of NEMPN’s core beliefs that museums are spaces for all and should strive to represent the many diverse cultures and histories that encompass our globe. This belief can be at odds with, as the description put it, the “traditional, core art audience,” but museum professionals should know that building a diverse and inclusive museum, internally and externally, involves facilitating actual change.
This position description, as well as previous incidents at the museum, point to a toxic, hostile work culture. We are especially concerned for the members of our EMP community working at Newfields. We are here to support in any way that we can. We understand that institutions sometimes find themselves questioning how they can do better. To that point, we lend our full support to the current and former staff of Newfields, as well as allies in the field at-large, in signing their petition calling for accountability from the Board of Trustees, Funders, and City of Indianapolis. In this petition, they have provided actionable steps which will move Newfields in the right direction and ultimately improve their museum and our field at large.
UPDATE: As of February 17, 2021, Charles L. Venable has stepped down as President of Newfields following the circulation of the petition with signatures from thousands of professionals. His resignation and the Newfields statement is the first step toward this institution’s pledge to do better. NEMPN wants the institution, its Board of Trustees, and its Board of Governors to be held accountable in its pledge. We supports the rest of the petition’s demands being met.
The National Emerging Museum Professionals Network envisions communities in which museum professionals make meaningful connections within and across backgrounds, disciplines, and institutions by providing leadership, responding to changing needs, enriching experiences, growing capabilities, and sharing resources. NEMPN is a registered 501(c)3. For more information: nationalempnetwork.org