The Board of Governors of the Indianapolis Museum of Art announced today that Dr. Charles L. Venable has been appointed The Melvin & Bren Simon Director and CEO of the Museum. Venable, who is currently the director and CEO of the Speed Art Museum, succeeds Maxwell L. Anderson, who became director of the Dallas Museum of Art in January 2012. Venable will assume his role at the IMA on October 8, 2012.
Venable brings more than 25 years of museum experience to the IMA, having held senior positions at some of the country’s top encyclopedic art museums including the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Dallas Museum of Art. During his five-year tenure as director and CEO of the Speed, Venable fueled tremendous institutional growth and initiated innovative programs that placed a special focus on the permanent collection and fostered deeper engagement with the public. He launched a comprehensive analysis of the Speed’s 14,000-piece permanent collection, acquired a series of significant works of art for the Museum, and expanded the role of adult and student education within the Speed’s overall programming. Venable also spearheaded a master plan to reinvigorate the Museum and enhance the visitor experience, which has led to the reconceptualization of the Museum’s current facility and a planned 200,000-square-foot expansion featuring a new building for modern and contemporary art designed by wHY Architecture of Los Angeles and New York. The “New Speed” is slated to open in late 2015 and will include a new art park and piazza for outdoor sculpture, which will surround the Museum. Under Venable’s leadership the Speed’s annual fund and upper-level membership have tripled and the Museum has raised nearly 95% of its $50 million goal for the expansion, three-times more than any previous cultural capital campaign in Louisville’s history. At the same time that he led these initiatives to transform the Speed, Venable also succeeded in significantly reducing the institution’s annual draw on its endowment to fund the Museum’s operations.
“Charles has a proven track record as a director, curator and fundraiser at leading museums across the country,” said June McCormack, chair of the IMA Board of Governors. “During his five years as director of the Speed, Charles developed and instituted a clear vision for the future of his museum. He also initiated innovative partnerships that broadened the Speed’s reach throughout the Louisville community, which speaks to his understanding of how a museum can serve as an anchor and cultural hub for its city, as the IMA does for Indianapolis.”
“I am honored to have been selected as the next Melvin & Bren Simon Director and CEO of the Indianapolis Museum of Art,” Venable said. “With its outstanding, encyclopedic collections, its vast and historic 152-acre campus and well-deserved reputation for innovation and excellence, the IMA has established itself as a pioneering arts institution that can play a major role in charting the course for American museums for the future. I look forward to working with the board of governors, the IMA staff and the people of Indianapolis to continue the IMA’s role as a beacon of the community and a leader in the museum field.”
“Charles is a seasoned museum executive who was a natural choice to lead the IMA into its exciting next phase,” said Tom Hiatt, chair of the IMA Search Committee. “He brings deep experience as a leader, fundraiser and scholar and a core understanding of the role that an art museum can play in its community. We are thrilled to welcome Charles to Indianapolis and look forward to the Museum’s continued growth and success under his leadership.”
From 2002 to 2007, Venable served as Deputy Director for Collections and Programs at the Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA), overseeing multiple departments, including Curatorial, Education, Exhibitions, Registration, Conservation, the Research Library, and Performing Art, Music, and Film. He also was integral in developing and executing the CMA’s strategic plan and expansion project designed by Rafael Viñoly.
Prior to his work in Cleveland, Venable was at the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) from 1986 to 2002. Rising from the rank of Assistant Curator to that of Deputy Director, Venable built the DMA’s holdings of decorative art and design, especially in the area of silver and ceramics, into one of the finest in the country. He also organized numerous exhibitions and became known as a scholar by editing and writing several well-respected publications. For his book, American Furniture in the Bybee Collection (1989), Venable was awarded the Charles F. Montgomery Award. His 1994 publication, Silver in America, 1840-1940: A Century of Splendor, Venable received the coveted Montgomery Prize. Venable is the only scholar to have received both the distinguished Charles F. Montgomery Award and the Montgomery Prize. His last major work, China and Glass in America, 1880-1980 (2000), was highly acclaimed for its scholarly contribution to the design field and for its accessible style.
A native Texan, Venable holds a Ph.D. in American Studies from Boston University, an M.A. in Fine and Decorative Art from the University of Delaware and a B.A. in American History and Art History, cum laude, from Rice University.
Venable and his partner, Martin Webb, will live at Westerley, the historic 1920s estate, once home to the Clowes family that was given to the IMA for use as the director’s residence. The couple has a 23-year-old daughter, Alexandra Venable.
Follow the Indianapolis Museum of Art and Charles Venable on Twitter: @imamuseum and @VenableArt