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Indianapolis Museum Leader Hired After Racism Outcry Leaves Her Role

Colette Pierce Burnette, who was hired to lead the Newfields campus that includes the Indianapolis Museum of Art after a controversy about a racially insensitive job posting, has left the organization after 15 months on the job and shortly after the arrival of a new museum director.

The appointment of Burnette, the first Black woman in the role, was part of Newfields’s response to the furor, along with establishing a $20 million fund to buy art from marginalized groups, increasing its board’s diversity and holding antiracism training. Burnette was previously president of Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas, a historically Black university.

Burnette declined to comment on Monday.

Newfields apologized in 2021 when its online job posting for a museum director said it was seeking a candidate who would diversify the institution while maintaining its “traditional, core, white art audience.” In September it hired Belinda Tate, a Black woman who was previously the executive director of the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts in Michigan.

Darrianne Christian, the chairwoman of the Newfields board of trustees, said in a statement on Friday that Burnette, who was hired last year, “helped deepen our relationships with the community and championed the transformative powers of art and nature.”

The board appointed Michael Kubacki, the chairman of the local Lake City Bank and a former board member, as the interim president and chief executive of Newfields. Kubacki and Charles L. Venable, who resigned from that role after the 2021 job posting, are both white.

The Indianapolis Museum of Art, located near both wealthy, largely white neighborhoods and poorer, more Black ones, recently concluded an exhibition called “We. The Culture: Works by the Eighteen Art Collective.” It featured works by 18 Black artists who painted a 30-foot-tall Black Lives Matter street mural in Indianapolis in August 2020.

Last week, Indiana Minority Business Magazine and Minority Business Review announced that Burnette had won this year’s Breaking Barriers Award as part of their annual Champions of Diversity Awards.

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