Guest curators withdraw from upcoming Newfields exhibit, citing ‘offensive’ job posting

The guest curators of a planned Indianapolis Museum of Art exhibit focusing on a local mural celebrating the Black Lives Matter movement have pulled their participation and support, after an online job posting for the museum said the institution hoped to maintain a “traditional, core, white audience.”

The exhibit, “DRIP: Indy’s #BlackLivesMatter Street Mural,” was scheduled to be on display from April 16-Oct. 3 at the museum, which is part of the Newfields campus at 38th Street and Michigan Road.

According to a description of the exhibit that was still on the museum’s website on Monday, “DRIP” would use “sound, imagery, and storytelling to allow visitors a glimpse into the making of, and intention behind, the mural itself.” The mural was painted by 18 local artists on Aug. 1 on Indiana Avenue between Blackford Street and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street as an anti-racism statement, approved by the Indianapolis City-County Council.

Cultural development startup GangGang was enlisted to curate the “DRIP” exhibition for IMA. But the two guest curators—GangGang co-founders Malina Simone Jeffers and Alan Bacon—announced Saturday that they had stepped away from the initiative in response to the language in the museum’s job posting, which they called “offensive and counter to the very point of the” planned exhibition.

“Although this is bigger than DRIP, our exhibition cannot be produced in this context and this environment,” Jeffers and Bacon said. “We have asked Newfields to revisit this exhibition to include an apology to all artists involved, the opportunity for the eighteen visual artists to show their other, personal works with appropriate compensation, and an intentional strategy from Newfields to display more works from more Black artists in perpetuity. Until then, [we] will not continue as guest curators for this exhibition.”

The museum did not return calls requesting comment Monday, and GangGang representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

After the job posting for a new director of the museum ignited a social media firestorm on Friday, Newfields issued a statement Saturday expressing “deep regret” for the language.

The section in question from the six-page job description emphasized the need for the new director to attract a more diverse audience to the museum while “maintaining the museum’s traditional, core, white art audience.”

The museum said Saturday that its intent is to build and diversify its core audience but acknowledged that the wording ultimately was “divisive rather than inclusive.” The wording in the posting has since been updated to remove the use of “white.”

Newfields President Charles Venable told The New York Times he regretted the choice of language and pointed to other elements of the job description that emphasize the museum’s commitment to greater diversity, equity and inclusion.

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Story Continues Below

Editor's note: You can comment on IBJ stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.

19 thoughts on “Guest curators withdraw from upcoming Newfields exhibit, citing ‘offensive’ job posting

  1. Absolutely. The less BLM is seen and glorified, the better. Darrell W. is spot-on; BLM advocates for Marxism and dissolution of the nuclear family and heterosexual marriage, bedrocks of America’s greatness.

    The Indianapolis City Council was ill-advised, but nonetheless undoubtedly shamed, into authorizing/approving any such message by any group of any stripe who actively want to destroy The United States of America. Good riddance to “guest curators and GangGang co-founders Malina Simone Jeffers and Alan Bacon” if they seek to capitalize on an ill-worded job posting for obvious theater to draw attention to themselves.

    (No, that doesn’t make me racist; it means I recognize destructive forces when I see them. My FIRST choice for President among the original 2016 field of Republican Presidential candidates was Dr. Ben Carson, a brilliant man with an engaging life story, deserving of far more attention and respect than he receives.)

    1. Ben Carson should have remained in the operating room…….the only place he is “brilliant”.

    1. An organization that truly is seeking to have a diverse POV would have at least one POC in most, if not all, departments, including HR and PR. Then route any public-facing statements through the diverse group and the POC would have spotted this obvious mistake before its publication.

  2. Ironically, the wording seems to be the museum acknowledging that they have historically attracted mostly white artists, which they are trying to change. Clumsy wording maybe, but honest. A bit of grace could go a long way. It shouldn’t be a bad thing that they want to maintain their historic base while attracting an expanded audience by having art and exhibits sourced from a broader range of Americans of all kinds, and thus becoming more inclusive.

    1. True, but there’s no denying the clumsiness in the wording is due to a major blind spot, the essence of what POC have correctly lost patience with.

    2. Quote: Clumsy wording maybe, but honest. A bit of grace could go a long way. It shouldn’t be a bad thing that they want to maintain their historic base while attracting an expanded audience by having art and exhibits sourced from a broader range of Americans of all kinds, and thus becoming more inclusive.

      BINGO, William S. (Pay attention, Randy, Grant, and Michael; there are worse things over which to get your panties in a wad…have you even read the position papers of BLM?)

  3. I would rather see the guest curators continue with their work at IMS. You can’t make progress by stepping away from a project when someone makes a mis-step. Get back in the game and curate a great exhibition. Then work to get the ENTIRE community to come see it. THAT is how progress is made.

    1. Yes, the guest curators need to step up and help to create the change they want to see. Something that Newfields is clearly trying to do as can be seen by the job ad including the mistaken wording. They need help and are searching for a way to move forward.

  4. Clumsiness in wording for sure but another example of people going off the deep end on PC. It only hurts BLM if they pull out but if that’s what they want to do then they should just do it and nobody will miss them. Sad but true.

  5. It’s a sign of the madness of our times that an accurate description of the museum’s core base of visitors and money has the woke melting down. Cry more.

    1. This is not what the job description was asking for. Twisting the facts is what makes issues like this so divisive and counterproductive

  6. Children are now running the thought process of the new culture at hand. Let’s see how this work’s out? Bankrupt government? Inflation out of control Electric bills and Property taxes Doubled? It’s on its way. Don’t forget Gas tax 46.62 PLUS Fed tax 18.4 that’s TOTAL of 65.02 cents per gallon just wait till a gal cost over 5.00 HMMM or children at work in government.

{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining
{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining Article limit resets in {{ count_down }} days.