The president of a historically Black university renowned as a changemaker will be the next leader of Newfields.
The museum announced Tuesday that Colette Pierce Burnette will be its new president and CEO beginning Aug. 1. She will be the first Black woman to lead Newfields, according to the museum.
Pierce Burnette is currently president of Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas. She’s credited with significantly growing the university’s endowment, pioneering new academic programs and forging innovative partnerships. In addition to two decades in education, her career spans engineering, information technology and public service.
Pierce Burnette was named the 2021 Austinite of the Year by the city's Chamber of Commerce for her commitment to education and her work as co-chair for the Mayor's Task Force on Institutional Racism and Systemic Inequities.
“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,” Pierce Burnette said 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.”
Newfields said Pierce Burnette’s selection is the culmination of a national search that considered more than 230 applicants.
“Our Search Committee looked at leaders across the entire country, and Dr. Burnette was a clear standout amongst an impressive slate. Her extensive professional achievements reflect her ability to deliver on her passion to innovate and advance the arts, education and green spaces," Chair of Newfields' Board of Trustees, Darrianne Christian said in a statement. "She is lauded by her staff, peers and the communities she served for being a humble leader with an immense amount of respect and empathy for everyone she encounters. Her legacy has been to elevate the beloved institutions she’s led into stronger more inclusive organizations that others seek to emulate."
Chief Financial Officer Jerry Wise has been serving as interim CEO of the organization. Former Newfields CEO Charles Venable resigned last year amid public outcry over an Indianapolis Museum of Art director job post that sought to maintain the organization's "traditional, core, white art audience" while increasing the diversity among Newfields visitors.