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Risa Shoup. (Photo by Simon Courchel)

Leadership Change at A.R.T./New York as Board Investigates Charges of Racism

Risa Shoup is the company’s interim executive director, with Virginia Louloudes on leave after concerns were raised about her leadership.

NEW YORK CITY: The Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York (A.R.T./New York) has named Risa Shoup interim executive director, effective immediately. Virginia Louloudes, who had been serving as executive director, has been placed on administrative leave by the company, in response to serious concerns about her leadership recently raised by a group of current and former employees, We Are A.R.T./New York. The organization has retained outside counsel to conduct an independent investigation, with the goal of including BIPOC-identifying employment attorneys, investigators, and/or a BIPOC advocate in the process.

In an open letter to the company’s board of directors, the members of We Are A.R.T./New York set out “to name and dismantle the systemic racism rampant at this organization.” The letter, which demanded the “immediate removal of the executive director,” detailed numerous transgressions which, the collective wrote, “deeply impacted our ability to serve our members and to carry out our operations, our external communications, and the health and safety of our work environment.” The letter, which had nine original signatories, now has over 400 co-signers.

“We are grateful to We Are A.R.T./New York for sharing what they’ve witnessed, and we are in dialogue with the group as well as the entire staff,” said the A.R.T./New York executive committee and board in a joint statement announcing the appointment of Shoup. “We fully support any and all efforts to make A.R.T./New York a better and more inclusive, equitable organization. A.R.T./New York is an evolving organization in an evolving world. We recognize the need to look at not only our current behavior but the organizational behavior that has brought us to this point. We are taking all necessary steps to bring that to fruition in an open, transparent, and collaborative manner and we are ready to get to work.”

Shoup has more than a decade in senior leadership roles with NYC cultural and community development nonprofits. They have a strong track record of working with cross-sector partners and funders to inform strategic policy for the equitable growth of accessible and inclusive cultural services in NYC, in support of the self-determination of NYC’s cultural workers and to co-create subsidized workspace for workers in the creative and cultural sector. Most recently, Risa’s practice as senior consultant at Karp Strategies was grounded in participatory planning, market-informed analysis, stakeholder engagement, and furthering access to necessary resources for the development of more inclusive, accessible and equitable cities. Prior to Karp Strategies, Risa served as the executive director of Spaceworks, a nonprofit dedicated to developing subsidized workspace for artists and cultural workers across New York City’s five boroughs, with previous tenures at Fourth Arts Block (where they consulted on CreateNYC, the City’s first cultural plan together with Caron Atlas and Gonzalo Casals, as part of Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts working with Hester Street), the Invisible Dog Art Center and chashama among others.

Founded in 1972, A.R.T./New York is dedicated to supporting New York City’s nonprofit theatres and has over 400 member theatres.

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