NEWS- Arts attack: 2nd St. director abruptly resigns

Leah Stoddard's sudden departure from Second Street Gallery stuns the local art scene, already reeling from Jill Hartz's exit from the UVA Art Museum.

Is there something in the nonprofit water that has directors of local cultural institutions dropping like cherry blossoms to pursue the ubiquitous "other opportunities"?

Long-time Second Street Gallery executive director Leah Stoddard becomes the latest to mysteriously disappear, turning in her resignation May 5– without the usual two weeks or more notice that typically accompanies cordial departures. By May 6, she was no longer listed on the gallery website.

"I have resigned," Stoddard confirms from home May 7. As for the lack of notice, "I can't really talk about it," she says.

Stoddard joins the Paramount Theater's former director, Edward Rucker, who tendered his resignation May 2 "to pursue other opportunities" after a 10-month tenure, and University of Virginia Art Museum director Jill Hartz, who was shown the door in December and then landed a job heading the University of Oregon's much larger museum. (Also among the recently departed: Voice of the Cavaliers Mac McDonald and Doug Day, whose irreverent blog angered the board of the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society.)

"She wanted to pursue other options and spend more time with her family," offers Second Street's acting director/membership and outreach coordinator, Catherine Barber, who notes that a national search will be launched for Stoddard's successor.

Second Street board co-president Steve Delgado did not return a phone call. "We will miss Leah's passion and commitment to Second Street and wish her the best of luck in her future endeavors," he says  in a May 8 release.

"She resigned; she was not forced out," says co-prez Trish Crowe. "It's hard for all of us. Leah has been a fabulous curator. Every single one of us wishes her a fabulous career." 

"I will say they changed their website mighty fast," says Hook art critic Laura Parsons. "I'm livid about this. Leah is one of the best assets to the town we have, and she did a fantastic job at Second Street. She raised it to a national reputation."

Parsons cites Stoddard's fundraising abilities and her community outreach. "She curated cutting-edge shows and worked well with artists," says Parsons, who adds that she's also upset that Jill Hartz "got the heave-ho."

Stoddard seems sanguine about her abrupt resignation. "It's a good time for me to move on," she says. "I was there for eight-and-a-half years." During that time, she quadrupled Second Street's budget– scoring, for instance, a grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation– and tripled membership and staff, as well as moving into the Live Arts building on Water Street.

"It's a long run for an executive director of a nonprofit," says Stoddard. "I did over 100 shows."

So why the sudden rash of departures on the local arts scene? "I think it's a time of transition for nonprofits," she says. "It's a tough time for nonprofits when the economy gets tough."

Stoddard heads to Russia for a vacation May 19. "I want to stay in Charlottesville," she says, maybe to teach, or advise artists or collectors. And, naturally, the mother of two will spend more time with her family. 


1 comment

RE: the oh-so-heartfelt comments by Trish Crowe and Steve Delgado: You know the bulls**t in this town is so deep and thick, it's a wonder we even manage to slog through it.

Denmark is stinking to high heaven in its rottenness.