I don’t even know where to begin with this one so let’s just jump into it. The Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields engaged PR crisis management mode over the weekend after a job description for a new director including a qualification that the candidate would work to attract a more diverse audience while maintaining its “traditional, core, white art audience.”
It didn’t take long for that gem to get picked up and circulated across traditional and social media outlets. The museum’s chief executive, Charles L. Venable, told the New York Times the wording was intentional.
“I deeply regret that the choice of language clearly has not worked out to mirror our overall intention of building our core art audience by welcoming more people in the door,” he said. “We were trying to be transparent about the fact that anybody who is going to apply for this job really needs to be committed to D.E.I. efforts in all parts of the museum.”
But the damage was done.
There is no shortage of jabs and criticisms but my favorite (so far) is from @ArtsAdminsSay.
We got some bad feedback about the language we used in that job posting so we guess we need to change it. How do we say that we want our new museum director to prioritize our white patrons without using the word “white”?
— Shit Arts Administrators Say (@artsadminssay) February 14, 2021
While usually cagey about who they lampoon, this one leaned into the blunder. It’s clear they are talking about Newfields.
So…who wants to apply?
All kidding aside, @ArtsAdminsSay makes a good point. The arts and culture sector has a long history of playing fast and loose with language. This is just the latest reminder.