November 11, 2023

Newfields’ president and CEO departs, less than 2 years in role

Former Newfields President and CEO Colette Pierce Burnette. - Provided by Newfields.

Former Newfields President and CEO Colette Pierce Burnette.

Provided by Newfields.

Newfields announced Friday that Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette exited her position as President and CEO. She started the job 15 months ago, replacing the former Newfields CEO Charles Venable. He  resigned after 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 of Newfields visitors.

Newfields did not offer a reason for Burnette’s sudden departure in the announcement.

WFYI interviewed Burnette about  her non-traditional path to Newfields. Previously she was the president of Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas. Reporter Terri Dee asked Burnette how she intended to address accusations that the art museum and its campus are not a welcoming place for all:

Reporter Terri Dee: How do you see your role in reversing these accusations and what will the leadership team and vision be to achieve those goals?

Pierce Burnett: First of all, we embrace those accusations. I think it's something that we can learn from. In Austin, Texas, which is where I was immediately before coming here, I was super engaged in that community to be able to address racial challenges that we had about, you know, becoming the anti-racist or becoming open, and open access to sensibility, diversity, sustainability.
I think it's real important that I encourage my team to learn from where we stand to help us to move forward. There’s a new definition of what a museum is and the word diversity and inclusivity is in that definition. Where museums across the world are experiencing this renaissance moment, this evolution moment of who we are as institutions and how we serve our constituents, our patrons, our members, our guests, and we're at a place in history where we can either make this a moment or a movement.

I want Newfields, to be a part of that movement, so that we are really opening ourselves up and facing outward as opposed to inward. So, we embrace what happened and we learn from it, and we keep moving forward, as opposed to being stuck in it or repeating that history.

Newfield’s announced Burnett’s departure Friday and thanked her for her service in a statement.

“She helped deepen our relationships with the community and championed the transformative powers of art and nature. We are grateful for her work on behalf of Newfields and wish her well in her future endeavors,” Board of Trustees Chair Darrianne Christian said.

The board appointed Michael Kubacki Interim President and CEO. He served on the board Kubacki from 2014-2023 and as vice chair from May 2021-May 2023. He is the Executive Chairman of Lake City Bank.

***Corrections and clarifications: We first reported Dr. Burnette resigned her position, but we have not been able to confirm that. No explanation for her departure has been given.

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