Three Black women will now lead the institution serving as board chair, president and CEO, and director of the museum
NEWFIELDS ANNOUNCED THE APPOINTMENT of Belinda Tate as the next director of the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA). An encyclopedic museum founded in 1883, IMA is part of Newfields, a cultural institution spread across 152 acres in Indianapolis, Ind., that includes art galleries, performance spaces, expansive gardens, and a sculpture park.
Tate has been serving as executive director of the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts (KIA) in Kalamazoo, Mich., since 2014. She will depart KIA in mid-October and join IMA in the role of Melvin & Bren Simon Director on Nov. 6.
“We all have high expectations of our incoming Director to lead the next generation of the IMA at Newfields. Belinda is strongly positioned to deliver for Newfields, bringing our full potential to fruition. She is committed and aligned to our values of stewardship, inclusivity, excellence, and service and is also a trailblazer in diversity, equality, inclusion, and access,” Newfields President and CEO Colette Pierce Burnette said in a statement
“I look forward to working closely with her to ensure that Newfields becomes a must-see destination for everyone who visits Indianapolis and that it remains an anchor cultural institution, open and accessible to all.”
“We all have high expectations of our incoming Director to lead the next generation of the IMA at Newfields. Belinda is strongly positioned to deliver for Newfields, bringing our full potential to fruition.”
— Newfields President and CEO Colette Pierce Burnette
AS NEWFIELDS CELEBRATES its 140th anniversary, Tate is taking the helm of the Indianapolis Museum of Art at a pivotal moment. The past few years at Newfields have been laden with controversy. In July 2020, Kelli Morgan, an associate curator of American art, departed the museum citing its toxic and discriminatory culture in her resignation letter.
Following that episode, many months later on Feb. 3, 2021, Newfields announced a new executive structure. Two weeks later, on Feb. 17, then-president and CEO Charles Venable resigned after the institution posted a job description seeking a director who could “attract a broader and more diverse audience while maintaining the Museum’s traditional, core, white art audience.”
In response, Newfields Board of Trustees and Board of Governors issued an apology the same day, pledging to do better and present an action plan within 30 days. On March 19, Newfields announced a plan focused on “becoming an empathetic, multicultural and anti-racist institution.”
Titled Newfields Together, the action plan detailed measures the institution intended to undertake, seeking to remedy its culture, refine its leadership, and chart a new direction. Key highlights included establishing a $20 million endowment dedicated to acquiring works by BIPOC artists and artists from other “marginalized identities”; forming a new Community Advisory Committee; diversifying the board; hiring an executive-level diversity officer; providing staff, volunteers, and board members with diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) training; and expanding opportunities for free and discounted memberships, admission, and tickets in order to broaden the museum’s audience and visitor base.
Subsequently, Newfields elected a Black chair of the board of trustees (Darrianne Christian) and hired a Black vice president of human resources and chief people officer whose charge includes DEIA practices (Ernest Gause), a Black president and CEO (Colette Pierce Burnette), and now a Black museum director (Tate).
After announcing a new action plan, Newfields elected a Black chair of the board of trustees and hired a Black vice president of human resources and chief people officer whose charge includes DEIA practices, a Black president and CEO, and now a Black museum director.
THE NEW DIRECTOR brings 25 years of curatorial, educational, and administrative experience leading art museums. At the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, Tate presided over all aspects of the museum along with KIA’s Kirk Newman Art School, where she instituted a Post-Baccalaureate Residency Program.
Tate led the museum through the process of gaining accreditation with the American Alliance of Museums in 2019. She expanded it collections (more than 4,800 objects) by 10 percent with 46 percent of acquisitions by women artists and 32 percent by artists of color, according to KIA. During the pandemic, she oversaw the renovation and reinstallation of the museum’s permanent collections gallery, where the works on view now represent a more demographically diverse slate of artists.
“Under Belinda’s leadership, the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts has seen its collections, stature, art school, and audience impact grow dramatically. I am proud that Belinda has left us in such a strong position,” KIA Board Chair Perry Wolfe said in a statement that described Tate as “natural fundraiser.”
Previously, Tate was director of Diggs Gallery at Winston-Salem State University (1999-2014). She earned an undergraduate degree in art history and museum studies from Yale University and an MA from Wake Forest University in her hometown of Winston Salem, N.C.
Tate is one of the few Black directors of a mainstream art museum in the United States. Over the course of her decade-long tenure at KIA, a handful of museum leaders have joined her ranks, including Franklin Sirmans, director of Pérez Art Museum Miami (2015); Linda C. Harrison, director and CEO at Newark Museum of Art in New Jersey (2019); Andrea Barnwell Brownlee, director and CEO of Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens in Jacksonville, Fla. (2020); Gaëtane Verna, executive director at Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio (2022); and Brooke Minto, executive director and CEO of Columbus Art Museum in Ohio (2023). In addition, Lonnie G. Bunch III became secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. (2019), which encompasses multiple art museums.
For her next chapter, Tate is joining a museum where the collection features more than 54,000 works, about 11 times the number of works held by her previous institution. Since 2021, when Newfields announced a commitment and endowment dedicated to diversifying the collection, new acquisitions have included works by Charles Alston, April Bey, Zanele Muholi, Ebony G. Patterson, Faith Ringgold, Jeffrey Henson Scales, Mary Sibande, Art Smith, Vaughn Spann, and Gio Swaby.
“I am humbled by the opportunity to work alongside President and CEO Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette and the incomparable team at Newfields,” Tate said in a statement. “The Indianapolis Museum of Art is an evolving institution with a stellar collection and inspiration to all who visit. I look forward to joining a team dedicated to serving the community through exceptional exhibitions and programs as one of the nation’s leading cultural destinations.” CT
Closing this weekend, “We. The Culture: Works by The Eighteen Art Collective” (Sept. 23, 2022-Sept. 24, 2023) has been on view at the Indianapolis Museum of Art over the past year, showcasing works by 18 local artists who came together in the summer 2020 to paint a commissioned Black Lives Matter street mural on the city’s historic Indiana Avenue
Opening Nov. 11, 2023, “Newfields at 140: What’s Past is Prologue” is an exhibition celebrating the museum’s 140th anniversary, tapping the institution’s archives to present its journey from 1883 to present
In celebration of its 140th anniversary, Newfields is promoting what’s new at the destination where art meets nature. | Video by Newfields
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