Newfields announces promised 30-day action plan

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Newfields announces promised 30-day action plan
Charles Venable, then director and chief executive of the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, Jan. 16, 2019. Venable resigned on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021, after apologizing for an insensitive job posting. Lyndon French/The New York Times.

INDIANAPOLIS, IND.- Newfields’ Board of Trustees announced today an action plan that will focus Newfields on becoming an empathetic, multicultural and anti-racist institution.

Over the past 30 days, Newfields’ leadership and outside experts have listened to staff, volunteers, docents and community, including local artists. The resulting plan represents a set of initial actions, and a deep commitment to continue listening and bringing in new ideas.

The action plan includes the establishment of a $20-million endowment, the proceeds of which will be dedicated to the works of marginalized artists; more diversity on the Board of Trustees; organization-wide DEIA training; as well as a series of new programming, community partnerships and free membership offerings to bring Newfields to a wider, more diverse, audience.

To read the action plan in full and learn more about Newfields’ next steps, visit

“Over the past month, we’ve listened, we’ve learned, and now we have acted to take Newfields in a new direction. The Board of Trustees believes deeply in this plan, and we will support it with real resources, energy, and investment,” said Kathryn Betley, Chair of Newfields’ Board of Trustees.

“This is a beginning, but it's only a beginning. Our goal is to transform Newfields into an inclusive and empathetic place where community engagement, critical conversations and collaboration define our path forward,” said Darrianne Christian, Newfields Trustee and Chair of the board’s Commitment Committee, which engaged stakeholders and drafted the action plan.

“This plan is about rebuilding trust and forming new partnerships. We intend to bring more voices into our decisions, reflect greater diversity in our offerings, and embed Newfields more deeply in the fabric of our community” said Jerry Wise, Interim President of Newfields.

On February 17, Newfields mapped out a series of immediate priorities to begin rebuilding trust with staff, volunteers, docents and the community; to demonstrate a renewed commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and access; and to establish a solid foundation for the transformative work ahead. Based on the past month’s outreach, today’s plan turns those priorities into concrete actions.

Highlights of Newfields’ Action Plan:

• $20-Million Endowment to Enhance Representation in Exhibitions and Programming: Newfields is establishing a $20-million endowment, the proceeds of which will be dedicated to the acquisition of art created by BIPOC artists and artists from other marginalized identities.

• New Community Advisory Committee: Led by Dr. Sean L. Huddleston, President of Martin University and a highly respected community leader, a new Community Advisory Committee will bring Newfields closer to its neighbors and bring community voices directly to leadership.

• Increasing Leadership Diversity: By May 2021, new appointments will result in nearly 25 percent of the Board of Trustees representing diverse backgrounds, an increase from the current 8 percent.

• Hiring a Leadership-Level Diversity Executive: Newfields will recruit a senior-level executive reporting to the President and CEO to help drive the work required to become an empathetic, multicultural and anti-racist museum, and to oversee Newfields’ procurement processes, helping foster diversity across vendors and suppliers.

• Top-to-Bottom Outside Review of Leadership, Culture and Policies: Outside experts including Ice Miller’s Racial Equity Solutions Group and PINK! Consulting are conducting exhaustive interviews and listening sessions with Newfields staff and stakeholders, and will recommend comprehensive ways to transform the institution.

• Organization-Wide DEIA Training: All staff, docents and volunteers will receive ongoing DEIA training, and board members will complete additional 2-day intensive training.

• Expanding Access, Partnerships and Free Memberships: Newfields will create a neighborhood pass to provide free memberships to area residents and expand free memberships with local community groups. Newfields will expand its complimentary student membership program, which already includes Marion County public schools and public and non-profit universities and colleges, to include Ivy Tech.

• 50,000 Free and Discounted Tickets Annually: Newfields will significantly increase free and discounted ticket distribution --including to signature programming such as Harvest, Winterlights, and THE LUME—accelerating this commitment from 2023 to 2021.

• Expanded First Thursdays: Effective April 1, Newfields will expand its popular First Thursdays program, providing free general admission to the IMA Galleries and The Garden on the first Thursday of each month, for the full day, year-round.

Some of these actions have already been set in motion while others will build upon each other. This list will continue to grow as new areas for action are identified by the community and Newfields’ staff and leadership.

Advancing diversity, equity, inclusion and access will be a key priority of the institution and for every member of the Newfields team, from its Board of Trustees and Board of Governors, to staff, docents and volunteers. It will be seen and felt across every aspect of Newfields - from the artwork in the collection and the admissions policies, to the way the Human Resources department engages employees, Newfields will sustain these commitments for the long-term future.

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