Tyler Green
Art-focused Journalism by Tyler Green

Tyler Green Modern Art Notes

A remarkable tweet from the new IMA director

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This morning Indianapolis Museum of Art director Charles Venable laid off 21 people, 11 percent of the museum’s staff. The cuts, which seem to have been made because the IMA is unwilling to spend a reasonable level of endowment funds in order to continue to fulfill its mission at a high level, and/or because the museum’s board is too willing to live off of the generosity of past donors rather than continue to support the museum’s present and future, will impact virtually every part of the IMA.

This afternoon, Venable posted this to Twitter.

Pro tip: Six hours after you lay off staff, don’t tweet about your wonderful lunch.

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  1. S says:

    I’m one of the 21 “in the way” of the swinging axe. The fulcrum point cinched tighter today and swung with a quick blow.

  2. g says:

    Happy fucking birthday

  3. Can't Buy Good Taste says:

    Not really shocking at all, considering the fact that he had set up a Facebook page for his HOUSE before he took the time to meet all his new staff.
    In another tacky move, it’s so thoughtful of him to wait until after AIC in Indianapolis this summer to cut conservation staff. “Be sure to make the IMA look good to our international guests!” *makes slicing gesture on neck*

  4. I says:

    Agree about the Facebook page for the Director’s house! And, who exactly is footing the bill for all the work being done there? It’s all a little Marie Antoinette what with the bragging about their silver going with the house’s china and trying out all the caterer’s they have to choose from! Ugh.

  5. Ben Risinger says:

    This is horrible. Obviously the lay offs didn’t mean much to him. A tweet like this makes me question his leadership. Bad form.

  6. d says:

    Gee, IMA. You’re not giving me alot of reason to continue working for you if you keep cutting all the staff that actually give a sh*t.

  7. Justine says:

    I am so shocked… Not. Why do they keep picking these sleezy CEO types for this. It’s an art museum- get an artist to do the job right.

  8. Josh says:

    Sad to read all of this news coming out of Indy. A lot of great folks work at that museum. Or did. In addition to the 29 positions today I believe they also fired the police officers and EMTs a month or so ago.

    I hope the upcoming Matisse show goes well for them and doesn’t give Mr. Venable and the board the excuse to make further cuts. Frankly I’d like to know what’s up with the board of this museum. Max Anderson did some great things during his tenure, but at a cost. The board seemed to have no issue giving him a blank check. Now with Venable they’d like to hit the reset button and focus on donations and earned revenue. Its time for some of these board members to step up, increase THEIR support. Some of the people cut today spent decades at this institution. Its utterly disrespectful to them to have tweeted about an opulent birthday lunch or update on the renovations to the rent/mortgage free director’s mansion (a perk of being director at the IMA if I’m not mistaken).

    A sad situation that hopefully doesn’t have to get worse if certain people do the right things.

  9. Dan says:

    I’m just disappointed that this is the person in charge of a treasure of my city. And the classlessness continues the night of the layoffs on the Westerly (the official home of IMA Directors) Facebook page. http://imgur.com/6OENsAB

  10. I says:

    Well, just like the tweet, the Facebook page for Westerley (the IMA Director’s Mansion) has been removed.

  11. Former IMA member says:

    Josh’s comment above is the closest to the truth. Anderson didn’t care about contributed income because that meant you had to care about your donors which he did not, and his ideas for earned income were just ludicrous. There was not nearly enough money coming in to cover expenses so the endowments were looted time and time again. The board gave him free reign and now the staff is paying for it. Weak board leadership and governance has been the norm at the IMA since about 2004. It’s hard to recover from nearly a decade of poor and clueless leadership.

  12. K says:

    I’m guessing humble pie was not part of his birthday celebration. When I hear of people being laid off, I feel even more grateful to have a job. It would be nice if he seemed grateful to have his and to reflect the gravitas of the situation. Instead he and his partner come off like giddy, nouveau riche lottery winners. Money doesn’t buy class and fear won’t get you loyalty among your staff.

  13. […] Tyler Green then slammed Indianapolis Museum of Art director Charles Venable for laying off 21 people and then tweeting about his lunch at an “opulent Beijing eatery.” This is the type of targeted, meaningful criticism we like to see from Green. [ARTinfo] […]

  14. Chris says:

    I could care less about how Venable spent his birthday or where he lives, but Tyler is on target about IMA board stewardship. Please note that this distinguished group of public servants is chaired by an executive from a for-profit “college” under investigation by the SEC for its student loan program.

  15. s says:

    What’s he doing in Houston the same day he released 29 employees? He’s not even there to talk to people? Good luck with snow removal tomorrow when you got rid of the people who do the job. I used to love the IMA. I am retty sure I will never be back.

  16. Former IMA member says:

    Apparently he was in Houston over the weekend.

  17. Former member says:

    I used to support the IMA and will no longer at this point. Many people were my friends who loved that museum and chose to stay there during the last dreadful years. I was proud to be a part of supporting them, but no longer until they make real and effective changes. Notice that nobody in administration who make up the significant portion of salaries were cut. Best wishes to those who are still there and are scared to death of losing their jobs.

  18. Jill says:

    I am personally offended by the latest lay offs at the IMA. I have a very hard time with 20+ losing their jobs when the previous director made $500,000 a year, got a free home and lots of free perks. I can’t speak to the salary of the current director, but to me, if you are a director of a non-profit organization, a $500,000 salary is RIDICULOUS. Considering a 20 year, professional employee at the IMA makes $44,000, how about we pay the director a GOOD Salary at $100,000 and save 10 -12 jobs that were cut today.

  19. Heinrich says:

    It sounds like the IMA is positioning itself to be the new nonprofit “Walmart”. The new director has cut staff (not executives) with higher salaries and benefits, left the ones making just above minimum wage and no benefits to do the job. Meanwhile, executive staff sits back collecting the big money and benefits, particularly the Executive Director. He has an endowed position, a free home for the life of his contract, no out of pocket expenses for upkeep or maintenance for the home, and gets to throw lavish “donor” parties on the museum’s dime. In return, I guess he is just a mere puppet for the Board of Directors. At least the previous director laid off staff in 2008 when the recession hit. The current one just seems to be trying to increase his stature by becoming a financial hero at the expense of human beings. He anticipates the Matisse exhibition to be a cash cow (and I truly hope it is) but the people in the city of Indianapolis would be more content seeing saw blades with painted barn scenes or at least, something for free.

  20. Right on says:

    Right on, Heinrich. You are right except that while Anderson was at the IMA the annual budgeted fundraising target was never met. Ever.The deficits were huge, but the board decided to raid endowments, lay people off, etc., instead of creating a budget where revenues offset expenses. Human beings were the least of the board and management’s concern. Pathetic.

  21. Betty says:

    And just like that – @shameonima disappears from twitter too. Must be hard to keep a secret like that at the IMA.

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