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Indianapolis Museum of Art Names Its First Black Woman President

Indianapolis Museum of Art Names Its First Black Woman President

She’s the current president of a Texas HBCU!

The Indianapolis Museum of Art has announced the first Black woman president in its 159-year-history, ARTnews reports.

Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette is a former tech professional who currently serves as president of Huston-Tillotson (HT) University, a historically Black college in Austin, Texas. There she has been a champion for education and received honors in 2021 for her work as co-chair of the mayor’s Task Force on Institutional Racism and Systemic Inequities. Now she will be leaving her role at HT to serve as the new president and chief executive of the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, making history as the first Black woman to hold the title in more than a century. 

The museum has been rife with controversy over the past couple of years, accusations of racism causing a former associate curator of American art to resign in 2019. The curator wrote a letter to the president, Charles L. Venable, calling out a “toxic, discriminatory and racist culture.” In March 2021, rumblings would resurface, the institution posting a job listing looking for a director who would help maintain its “traditional, core, white art audience.” 

The museum apologized and changed the description to read “traditional core art audience,” but the damage was already done. Venable, who had served in his position for nearly a decade, resigned, and the institution has since been working on creating action around the calls for a more diverse, inclusive, and healthier institution culture. 

Thus far, the museum has implemented a $20 million endowment to procure works from underrepresented artists, a new antiracist and bias training initiative, and expanded hiring reforms. Last year, Darrianne Christian made history as the first Black woman to chair the museum’s board. With Pierce Burnette now joining as president, she hopes to continue the good work, ushering the institution into the next phase of growth.

“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. 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 said. 

She is set to begin her new role at the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields on August 1.

Congratulations, President Pierce Burnette!

Photo Courtesy of Newfields/ARTnews