The longtime head of the Oregon Arts Commission said she was fired abruptly this week when state officials told her they had a “different vision” for the agency.
“I didn’t resign,” Christine D’Arcy told the Statesman Journal. “I was basically told on Monday that I wasn’t going to be the executive director of the Oregon Arts Commission and Oregon Cultural Trust any longer.”
Business Oregon Executive Director Tim McCabe broke the news to her in a “very brief” meeting that came as a complete surprise, she said, but didn’t offer any real explanation. She also was not given a severance package.
Arts Commission Chairwoman Julie Vigeland and Cultural Trust Chairman Bob Speltz also were involved in the decision to let her go, which was arrived at last week, Business Oregon spokesman Nathan Buehler said.
The commission now is under the umbrella of Business Oregon, the agency tasked with growing businesses across the state.
Former Arts Commission assistant director Shannon Planchon has been named interim director, Buehler said. She served in that position for nine years but resigned in January.
She currently works at Planchon Consulting, a Portland firm she co-owns with her husband, Steve Planchon. She could not be reached for comment.
D’Arcy worked at the commission for 19 years, under Govs. John Kitzhaber and Ted Kulongoski, and helped create the Oregon Cultural Trust.
She also has left her position heading that agency.
In 2012, D’Arcy won the Gary Young Award from the National Assembly of State Art Agencies for her “exemplary leadership; innovative thinking; and extraordinary contributions to public support for the arts at the state, regional and national levels.”
She also created the Arts Build Communities program, which focuses on grassroots cultural programs, led the cultural trust to raise more than $32 million since 2002, created CHAMP (Culture, History, Arts, Movies/Main Street and Public Broadcasting) for a major reinvestment in 2009, and recently collaborated with the Ford Foundation to increase the funds the commission had to give.
The arts commission distributes grants using money from the Oregon Legislature, the cultural trust and the National Endowment for the Arts to programs ranging from the Oregon Ballet Theater to Salem’s World Beat Festival.
D’Arcy emailed her colleagues on Monday and said it was time for her to move on, but did not elaborate on the situation. Her official last day is Nov. 20, but she is gone from the organization now, using up vacation leave.
Buehler wouldn’t confirm D’Arcy had been fired, but said the parties involved would be reconsidering whether her replacement would continue to oversee both the arts commission and the cultural trust or whether those duties would be divided.
“They’re going to use this as an opportunity to look at that position … and see what the best structure is,” he said.
He said the search for D’Arcy’s replacement will begin immediately.
D’Arcy said she has no future plans but said many people have been “reaching out” to her and that she hopes to continue working in the arts.
“I think I left a pretty strong legacy in arts and culture in Oregon,” she said.
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