Artists Repertory Theatre Lays Off Artistic Director

The layoff comes as the theatre navigates a canceled season and unmet fundraising goals for its new performing arts space.

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Portland’s Artists Repertory Theatre has laid off its artistic director, Jeanette Harrison, according to a press release issued last week.

“While ART deeply appreciates Jeanette’s artistic leadership during her time here, the financial realities ART faces, including the suspension of production for the 2023-24 season, have led the Board to conclude that, unfortunately, ART does not have the capacity to retain her position within the organization,” said the release, which describes Harrison’s parting as “amicable.”

Harrison was hired in September 2022. Two months ago, the theatre company announced that it had suspended its 2023-24 season two weeks before it was scheduled to open. The company has also been involved in a prolonged and expensive renovation of its performance space and had been presenting shows in other locations.

The organization attributed the suspension of its season to the failure of the Oregon legislature to pass House Bill 2459, which would have appropriated $50.2 million in state funds for arts and culture groups around the state —  with $250,000 earmarked for Artists Rep

Last week’s press release said the theatre is “focusing its resources on actively fundraising to return to the home space on Morrison Street,” which the company is envisioning as a shared arts space offering space and resources to artists and arts organizations at below-market rates.

Managing director Aiyana Cunningham told OPB in September the company still has $5 million to raise toward its $30 million fundraising goal for the renovation.

The Portland theater company is not the only Oregon arts venue facing financial distress. In July, the Oregon Children’s Theatre canceled its 2023-2024 season. In April, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival launched an emergency fundraising drive, saying it needed to raise $1.5 million by June — and $2.5 million in total — in order to continue the 2023 season. The organization later announced it had met and exceeded that goal in just 50 days, but needed another $7.5 million to complete the season.

In an email to Oregon Business, ART communications & marketing director Leslie Crandell Dawes wrote the company currently has no plans to fill the artistic director position, and remains $5 million short of its renovation fundraising goal.

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