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.