Newfields, the Indiana Museum and Entertainment Complex, Names a New Leader After Its Last CEO’s Turbulent Ouster

Its new head has more than two decades experience working in higher education.

Colette Pierce Burnette is the new president and CEO of Newfields. Photo courtesy of Newfields.

Colette Pierce Burnette has been named the new president and CEO of Newfields, the 152-acre cultural campus that includes entertainment and natural attractions and houses the museum formerly known as the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

Burnette, the organization’s first Black woman leader, replaces former director Charles L. Venable, who resigned in February 2021 shortly after the organization came under fire for a job posting calling for candidates that would “attract a broader and more diverse audience while maintaining the museum’s traditional core, white art audience”.

An open letter signed by over 100 Newfields staff members, plus another signed by over 2,000 members of the public, both called for Venable’s dismissal. 

In March 2021, the museum announced new Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility (DEIA) initiatives, pledging to introduce anti-racist training for all staff, establish a city-wide community advisory committee, and further review its leadership. It also committed $20 million towards improving the presentation of BIPOC artists in the museum’s collections and programming.

“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 [where] every team member is proud to work,” said Burnette, who was chosen from over 230 applicants.

The new CEO has worked in higher education for over two decades, most recently as the president of Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas. Her tenure was marked by an increase in the institution’s endowment and the inauguration of new academic programs. She is a board member of Leadership Austin, the Austin Community Foundation, and Waterloo Greenway Conservancy. 

Earlier in her career, Burnette worked for organizations including Procter & Gamble, The Washington Post, and the Washington State Department of Transportation. She begins her new role on August 1.

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