News tonight of a leadership change at ArtsWest. On behalf of the Board of Trustees, its secretary Dawn Leverett just sent this announcement:
After 5-1/2 years as Executive Director of ArtsWest, Alan Harrison and the Board of Trustees have decided to part ways. The Board is tremendously grateful to Mr. Harrison for all he has done to promote ArtsWest and its mission. While ArtsWest has grown in stature, priorities have shifted and differences in approach have arisen especially in the current economic cycle. Consequently, the time has come for a change in leadership giving rise to the opportunity to reevaluate the entire structure of the organization before launching a formal search for a new executive director. The board of trustees is confident that they have in place a plan that will allow for a smooth transition.
We asked Leverett a few followup questions: First, who is charge in the meantime? She says that duty is being shared by “several board members with various talents and time who have stepped up to run the organization. Second – will Harrison’s departure lead to any changes in the upcoming season, announced months ago? Reply: “At this time, no plans to change the season. We also asked if ArtsWest is financially sound. While acknowledging that “arts have been hit by lack of giving” in the rocky economy, Leverett said, “We certainly are stable.”
ADDED TUESDAY: A statement received via e-mail from Alan Harrison:
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone associated with ArtsWest: the board of trustees, the staff, the artists, and the audiences. In 2005, when I began, there were a number of arts professionals in Seattle who suggested that ArtsWest was not the opportunity for someone who has been in the nonprofit arts business as long as I have. By 2006, we had changed our mission to “require conversation, improve the imagination, and promote cultural vibrancy as a core value” and succeeded in drawing record crowds each year. Better than crowds: ArtsWest now has a fan base.
Last season, the theater drew more fans than ever; with an amazing majority of them coming from outside the 4 zip codes of West Seattle. It is gratifying that we could use our provocative gallery and theater to cause conversations that move the issues beyond the unknown stage and into the “let’s fix it” stage all over Seattle. ArtsWest became a real progressive success story and we have so many people to thank for that. For the first time in the history of the organization, artists were being paid no less than a legal wage (including rehearsals), and the scale and scope of the organization grew to capacity. However, as the economy worsened, earned income was setting records for growth and contributed income dropped. Someday that will turn around, and ArtsWest will again succeed, of this I’m sure.
It was a wonderful ride. Now, my family and I are excited about the next opportunity to work with a company in Seattle. It is our home, and I am delighted to be a part of this wonderfully intellectually curious community of ours. We’re looking forward to seeing what that new opportunity will be, and can’t wait for it to begin.
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