Robert Lynch, chief executive of Americans for the Arts, the powerful national advocacy group, withdrew amid complaints and inquiries about the organization’s equity and diversity practices and the management of its workplace.
Lynch, who has held the leadership position for more than three decades, will take paid leave, the group’s board of directors said in a statement on Wednesday. “It has become evident that despite our best efforts, we have not met our goals of leading, serving and advancing the various networks of entities and individuals who cultivate the arts in America,” the statement said.
Mr. Lynch, 71, has been a strong advocate for resources for non-profit arts organizations; he is also part of the Biden-Harris Transition Team for the Arts and Humanities. His departure from his post at AFTA, where his annual compensation was over $ 900,000, according to tax returns, was voluntary and effective immediately, the statement said. (The Biden-Harris transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)
His absence was supposed to allow for a thorough examination of AFTA, which has an endowment of more than $ 100 million. “It is Bob’s firm belief – which is unfortunately shared by the Board – that the most appropriate course of action now is to allow investigations to proceed without distraction and in the best interests of the organization’s mission. and the land, ”the statement said.
The move follows a growing body of criticism from current and former AFTA employees and members of the advisory board, who have said the organization is failing in its mission of diversity, equity and social responsibility. ‘inclusion. There were also complaints of sexual harassment and for a management culture based on intimidation rather than transparency. Critics had called for Mr Lynch’s resignation because, they said, he had long been indifferent to the issues they had listed. The fury was also the subject of a Washington Post report this week that detailed the issues, including reports of widespread retaliation among its senior executives.
In recent months, as calls for AFTA have multiplied to diversify its leadership and better serve creative communities and artists of color, the group has publicly defended its actions and pledged to do better. It is one of a number of arts organizations, large and small, that have been forced to reckon with a history of inequity in its ranks and programs recently.
In its statement, AFTA said it would now be the subject of two independent investigations, one by law firm Proskauer Rose related to the work environment, and the other by the consultancy firm. Hewlin Group, which will focus on AFTA’s diversity policies and procedures. , equity and inclusion.
Former Board Member, Former US Army Brigadier. General Nolen Bivens will lead the group as interim chairman and chief executive, the board said.