Charles L. Venable
Venable was born and raised in Houston, Texas. He received a B.A., cum laude, in Art History and History from Rice University in 1982 and a master's degree from the University of Delaware's Winterthur Program in Early American Culture in 1986 and a PhD from Boston University in American Studies in 1993.
From 1986 to 2002, he was at the Dallas Museum of Art, rising from rank of Assistant Curator of Decorative Art to Chief Curator to Deputy Director and built the museum’s holdings of American decorative art and its exhibitions program. Venable also served five years (2002–2007) as Deputy Director of the Cleveland Museum of Art and then five years (2007-2012) as the Director of the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, KY.
Indianapolis Museum of Art
Venable was appointed as The Melvin & Bren Simon Director and CEO of the Indianapolis Museum of Art in October 2012 under a five-year contract. Upon his appointment, the Board of Governors charged Venable with achieving financial stability for the IMA. During his tenure, Venable has worked alongside the Board to significantly reduce the endowment draw, while increasing earned and donated revenue. IMA has secured major gifts in both art and capital under Venable’s leadership, including a $10 million gift from the Lilly Endowment to enhance the IMA gardens and to establish an Innovation Fund. The Fund enables the IMA to identify, research and pilot experimental programming that will increase the IMA’s long-term sustainability.
Venable’s tenure marks some of the IMA’s most highly attended exhibitions, including Matisse, Life in Color and Dream Cars: Innovative Design, Visionary Ideas. Among the many acquisitions Venable has spearheaded for the IMA, Five Brushstrokes, a large-scale installation by renowned Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein, is among the most high-profile. The sculpture— which was created by 1983, but never fabricated to full-scale during Lichtenstein’s lifetime— made its world premiere at the IMA in 2014 and now resides in front of the main Museum building on the Dudley and Mary Louise Sutphin Mall.
In April 2015, Venable and the board reinstated the IMA’s admission policy, bringing the gardens, galleries and special exhibitions together under a single ticket. Under Venable’s leadership, IMA membership has reached a record-high, tripling from approximately 5,000 to 15,000. His initiative to position the IMA as a cultural centerpiece in Indianapolis has been reflected through his efforts to provide accessible, innovative programming and to enhance the gardens and natural landscape on IMA’s main 152-acre campus.
In April 2016, the IMA Board of Governors extended Venable’s contract for an additional 10 years. The extended tenure aligns with the timeline of the IMA’s new 10-year strategic plan. Under the extended contract, Venable will serve through January 1, 2026.
Venable has edited and written several scholarly publications. His book, American Furniture in the Bybee Collection (1989), was awarded the Charles F. Montgomery Award of the Decorative Arts Society (DAS). His 1994 publication, Silver in America, 1840-1940: A Century of Splendor, also received the DAS's Montgomery Prize. Venable co-authored, China and Glass in America, 1880-1980 in 2000.
In his current role as The Melvin & Bren Simon Director and CEO Venable periodically curates exhibitions, including the IMA’s silver exhibition, Tiffany, Gorham, and the Height of American Silver : 1840-1930.