Colette Pierce Burnette is departing Newfields, the campus housing the Indianapolis Museum of Art, after just fifteen months as president and CEO. Burnette wasappointedto the dual roles in May 2022, after Charles Venablerelinquishedthem amid anoutcryagainst the museum’s ad seeking a director capable of helping the institution diversify while maintaining its “traditional, core, white art audience.” Previously the president of Austin’s Huston-Tillotson University, a historically Black university, Burnette was the first Black woman to lead the museum since its 1883 founding. Her departure comes just months after the museumappointedBelinda Tate to the newly created role of Melvin & Bren Simon Director, which she officially assumed November 6. Tate arrived to the museum from Kalamazoo Institute of Arts in Michigan, where she was executive director.
The hiring of both Tate and Burnette reflected Newfields’ efforts to put behind it the allegations of institutional racism that first became widely known with the 2020 departure of associate curator Kelli Morgan owing to what shedescribedas the not-for-profit museum’s “toxic” and “discriminatory” environment. Morgan had been hired during Venable’s nine-year tenure to help diversify the institution’s exhibitions. After Venable left over the job-posting kerfuffle, Newfields appointed Darrianne Christian as its first Black female board chair, hired Burnette and then Tate, and established a $20 million endowment dedicated to the purchase of works by marginalized artists, the diversification of the museum’s board, and the launch of an antiracism training program.RelatedMILLER ICA TO GET NEW HOME, REBRAND AS INSTITUTE FOR CONTEMPORARY ART PITTSBURGHDOCUMENTA 16 DOGGED BY SELECTION COMMITTEE RESIGNATIONS No reason was given for Burnette’s departure, nor has she publicly revealed her future plans. Christian in a statement lauded Burnette for having “helped deepen [Newfields’] relationships with the community and championed the transformative powers of art and nature.” Michael Kubacki, chair of Indiana’s Lake City Bank and a former board member, will serve as the institution’s interim president and chief executive..