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Years After Racism Outcry, Indianapolis Museum Gets a Director

Years After Racism Outcry, Indianapolis Museum Gets a Director
  • PublishedSeptember 21, 2023

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Nearly three years after the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields started a search for a director, Belinda Tate has been named to the job, the museum announced on Wednesday.

Tate, the executive director at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts in Kalamazoo, Mich., will lead Indiana’s largest and most influential art institution starting Nov. 6.

“I look forward to joining a team dedicated to serving the community,” Tate said in a statement, calling the Indianapolis museum an “evolving institution.” She was chosen from a pool of more than 200 applicants.

The search, first articulated in an insensitive online posting for a director to help the museum diversify while maintaining its “traditional, core, white art audience,” ignited an outcry that led to the resignation of the Newfields president and chief executive, Charles L. Venable, and an apology from the museum.

The separate director position was created in 2021 as part of a restructuring of the museum’s executive team (Venable had also held that title). A little over a year after Venable resigned, he was replaced as president and chief executive by Colette Pierce-Burnette, the first Black woman to lead Newfields.

Her hiring was one of the steps the institution — situated near both wealthy, mostly white, neighborhoods and others with large Black populations — took after artists and community members demanded new commitments to diversity and employees sought to improve the office culture. The museum also earmarked $20 million to acquire works by artists from marginalized groups, increased diversity on its board and instituted antiracism training.

Tate will begin her tenure at time when the museum has been fulfilling its promises to display more work by Black artists but still has a long way to go in reorienting itself as an inclusive organization.

Originally from Winston-Salem, Tate earned a master’s degree in liberal studies from Wake Forest University, as well as a bachelor’s degree in art history and museum studies from Yale University. She served for 15 years as the director of Diggs Gallery at Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina, and has been a member of the task force on Diversity, Equity, Accessibility and Inclusion in Museum Excellence of the American Alliance of Museums. She began work in Kalamazoo in 2014.

Her appointment was announced in the final week of “We. The Culture: Works by the Eighteen Art Collective,” an exhibition showcasing the work of 18 Black artists that also looks back at the creation of the Black Lives Matter street mural in Indianapolis in 2020.

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