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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

More board member changes at Newfields

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By JILL SHERIDAN

The Newfields Board of Trustees lost another member last month but two new members were added in recent leadership shifts at the art museum.  Indianapolis banker Jason Noyan is no longer on the board. New members Robert Schelle, VP at a financial company and Leon Jackson, CEO at a diversity business have joined the museum’s governing board.

Two other Board of Trustees members at Newfields stepped down in December. Dr. Sean Huddleston, president of Martin University, and Sherron Rogers, the chief financial officer at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital who was previously at Eskenazi Health, both recently resigned. 

In a statement, Huddleston said he joined the board in 2021 as an opportunity “to help people see themselves in a space that they didn’t know was for them, accepting of them, and supportive of their interests.”

Huddleston said his decision comes after the departure of Newfields CEO Dr. Colette Burnette.

“I feel that my time now needs to be spent focusing on how Martin (and others who may wish to partner with us) can continue that work and further any progress that has been achieved,” Huddleston said.

Board members Adrienne Sims, Gary Hirschberg and Otto Frenzel IV also left the art museum after Burnette’s exit after just 15 months on the job. She replaced the former Newfields CEO Charles Venable, who resigned after public outcry over a controversial job posting.

The community response was swift, with numerous local groups, Black organizations, and other activists and advocates insisting on an explanation. At a protest last month in front of the museum, Wildstyle Paschall, an artist and community advocate, said Burnette had just started the important work of building bridges.

“[She was] very involved in the community, having real discussions, making real change at Newfields, which is something we’d never seen before,” Paschall said.

At the time of this story’s publication, Newfields has not given a reason for Burnette’s departure. The museum did release a November statement that said it remained committed to being an inclusive organization.

Newfields’ Board of Governors, which is not a governing board but helps the institution define programming and events for all Newfields constituents, has also lost members in recent days. 

Those board resignations include arts group Ganggang founding member Malina Simone Bacon and Visit Indy Vice President Chris Gahl. In a statement, Gahl said his decision was driven by a lack of engagement between the two boards.

“This siloed approach to board governance goes well beyond recent personnel decisions and includes budget, operations, and nearly all strategic decision making,” Gahl said.

Isaac Bamgbose and Barry Wormser have also left the Board of Governors. 

The Newfields Board of Trustees appointed Michael Kubacki, a former trustee and outgoing chair of Lake City Bank, as interim President and CEO of Newfields.

This story has been updated.

Contact WFYI city government and policy reporter Jill Sheridan at jsheridan@wfyi.org.

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