Repeat Of Board Tensions In Chicago

If you hadn’t caught the news in the last week, there is a major crisis at Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago which saw the mass resignation of their current cohort of resident artists. This is a seeming repeat of similar tensions in 2020 between the theater’s board and artists which also saw the mass resignation of artists.  Subsequently, the playwright of the show in production, cullud wattah, pulled the rights to the show which had been set to close July 17, leaving the theatre without any remaining programming.

The greatest detail about the conflict is laid out in a post by isaac gomez, one of the members of the erstwhile cohort. He discusses the suspension of the Artistic Director and resignation of the Acting Managing Director whose tensions with the board came to a head when they were shut out of conversations about a major financial purchase (apparently the purchase of an adjacent building) which the directors strenuously objected.

There was also the issue of a prolonged negotiation with the candidate for the executive director position which had been unoccupied for two years .  The artist cohort learned that their input into the selection was not welcomed when they were accidentally invited to a meeting. The executive director candidate, whose hiring the artists were urging, subsequently withdrew herself from consideration at some point in all the tensions.

Overburdened due to absent leadership and unfilled positions, many of the theatre’s staff left their positions as well, much of it on the upper management level.

While gomez’s account is certainly only one side of the story, he reflects regret about the situation noting that Victory Gardens has stood by their commitment to provide a degree of stability for creative artists unseen in the broader industry. However, by not living up to written commitments about providing access and transparency in decision making, gomez and colleagues feel that the board has been unable to move beyond the toxic cycle which caused similar issues two years ago.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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