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An Indiana street

Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette

Indy Like a Local

Who is Colette?

As of August 2022, Dr. Burnette is the president and CEO of Newfields, which includes the Indianapolis Museum of Art. She comes to Newfields after serving as president of Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas.

What did you research that piqued your interest in the Newfields CEO position and Indy as a whole?

Many things piqued my interest, but if I had to pick one, it would be the passion the city has for Newfields as an anchor cultural institution. The intentional efforts that Indy has as a city to support and invest in its cultural offerings were a tipping point in my decision-making. It was inspiring to learn that there is a deep understanding and recognition that the arts play in offering a high quality of living.

Immersing yourself in art at Newfields.

When you were hired, you alluded to the “nurturing and transformative power” of places such as Newfields. In what ways can guests expect Newfields to be both nurturing and transformative, and why are those qualities so important in an organization?

Our mission is to enrich lives through exceptional experiences with art and nature. We center community voices to understand what we should put in our galleries, our garden, and our park for reflection, enjoyment, and knowledge-sharing. We literally have something for everyone. Whether it is exploring the galleries enjoying our vast collection, a stroll in our beautiful gardens, or a brisk walk around the park, all senses will be nurtured. Art and nature help us to slow down and exhale. The speed at which we live our lives can be daunting and exhausting. I think places where you can learn, have your soul fed, or think about something new, and experience nature are crucial elements to our mental and physical well-being. Newfields is that place.

What important lessons from your time in higher education have you put into practice at Newfields?

There are so many similarities! Some I knew and many more I’ve come to know. The missions to serve and enrich lives are parallel. As a university president, I built my administration around the necessity and importance of preserving history and legacies while simultaneously embracing change, innovation, and transformation. That is a lesson I put into practice every single day at Newfields. The other important commonality is the power of collaborations and partnerships. There is an African Proverb that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Newfields can serve as a learning lab, a brave space for courageous conversations, and a partner in building a beloved community. I am excited about the partnerships and collaborative opportunities we have. They are boundless. Many have already begun to take root. Stay tuned!

What are you looking forward to at Newfields this year?

Wow! So much! Art in Bloom just happened in March; the re-opening of our American Art Galleries happened this April; for the first time we participated in the internationally acclaimed Philadelphia Flower Show, where my team put together an extraordinary exhibit; and, of course, raising the bar higher and higher with Harvest and Winterlights.

What is one thing you wish people knew about Newfields that they may not already know?

It would be knowing more about the tremendously talented and creative people who work at Newfields. We are an extremely complex organization occupying 152 acres. I am surrounded by committed and kind souls. I work with people with a passion for excellence, and it shows in every detail of what our members and guests experience.

There are so many gems on the Newfields campus. Have you found a favorite, whether it be a piece of art, an area of the garden, or otherwise?

It is just like being a mother. I don’t have a favorite. I am immeasurably proud of it all! I must say that working at a place where a stressful day will melt away if you just take a 30-minute walk in any direction is pretty amazing. I haven’t found a favorite, but the fun is in the search for one. There is so much to explore.

Newfields is a world-class art campus. What other attractions or art institutions in Indy do you find have world-class offerings?

I think world-class is relative and personal. I am a huge fan of the Harrison Center. I go there as often as I can. I have a world-class experience every time.

harrison center

Your bio says you love music. What Indy music venues/artists have you discovered?

I thoroughly enjoyed the American Pianists Association competition at The Jazz Kitchen. An afternoon listening to music at Blues and BBQ on 38th [Street] was one of my #fallinginlovewithIndy moments.

Jazz Kitchen

What other places in Indy have become favorites so far?

That’s easy – Tea’s Me Cafe, which is near my house. When I have downtime, my husband and I start our Saturday morning off with a delicious tea and an egg sandwich. Then there is AJ’s Lounge – every now and then you have to get your love tank filled up with a delicious fried catfish dinner and have a ‘that’s my song’ moment while listening to the music playing on the jukebox. And finally, like most, I love St. Elmo’s.

Iconic Eats

If friends were visiting you and Indy for the first time, what is one thing on your agenda (besides Newfields) that you would ensure they see while in the city?

I had friends visit recently, and they loved walking around downtown. They stayed at my favorite – Hotel Indy – and went into all of the eclectic shops, theaters, and venues downtown. Indianapolis hugs you tight, and I want every one of my friends to experience that hug.

Hotel Indy Celebrates the Circle City

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