HBCU President Becomes First Black Woman To Head Indianapolis Museum Of Art

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Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette, president of Huston-Tillison University in Austin, Texas, is embracing a new professional title: president and CEO of the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields (aka Newfields).

“I’ve seen the nurturing and transformative power of cherished institutions like Newfields. I am thrilled to become part of
a team driven to meet Newfields’ mission of enriching lives purposefully and intentionally through exceptional experiences with art and nature,” Dr. Burnette, a Harvard-educated native of said Cleveland, in a statement.

“I believe strongly in service, and I am
excited to lead Newfields at this unique moment to make it a place every person in Indianapolis and beyond is excited to visit, and every team member is proud to work,” she added.


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The 139-year-old museum announced the news just over a year following the departure of Charles L. Venable, who led Newfields for 9 years.

Back in March 2021, Venable resigned after the public began slamming a job listing in which he specifically sought out an art director who would work to maintain Newfields’ “traditional, core, white art audience.”

In response to the controversy, the museum apologized and ushered in an action plan — which included bias training, a $20M endowment to acquire more work from underrepresented artists and hiring reforms.

Later that same year, Newfields hired Darrianne Christian, the first Black woman to chair the museum’s Board of Trustees. Now, it’s bringing on Dr. Burnette as the new president and CEO, making her the first-ever Black woman to lead the institution.

“Our Search Committee looked at leaders across the entire country, and Dr. Burnette was a clear standout amongst an
impressive slate,” Christian said. “Her extensive professional achievements reflect her ability to deliver on her passion to innovate and advance the arts, education and green spaces.”

“Her legacy has been to elevate the beloved institutions she’s led into stronger, more inclusive organizations that others seek to emulate. We are absolutely delighted to bring her leadership to Newfields,” she added.

Dr. Burnette’s role as president and CEO of Newfields will begin on Aug. 1, 2022. It’s also worth adding that Huston-Tillotson University will celebrate Dr. Burnette on Satuday, June 4.