In a move that will realign the region’s arts community, Allison Vulgamore, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s president and CEO since 1993, told the board Monday she’ll not renew her contract when it expires in June.
Often tearful in an interview in offices at the Woodruff Arts Center, Vulgamore, 51, spoke today of the “very personal decision” to depart an organization with nationally-recognized accomplishments but also substantial business left unfinished.
“It’s common for an executive director to help set the path in motion to be artistically and financially solid, but to move on before it comes to fruition,” she said. “I’ve been so fortunate to have seen this growth here across my 16-year tenure.”
Insider sources from the Philadelphia Orchestra, one of America’s fabled “big five” ensembles, suggest Vulgamore might be named that world-famous orchestra’s new boss as soon as tomorrow. Vulgamore’s ASO contract spells out that she can depart before June without penalty.
Vulgamore says she first floated the idea of leaving last spring. In a statement Tuesday, ASO board chairman Ben Johnson said, “This is a decision that we have unsuccessfully sought to have her reconsider.”
Without question, Vulgamore was the dominant figure among the region’s arts leaders, and she was never shy about pushing for her way when it involved the ASO agenda, even among the other Woodruff Arts Center constituents.
In the top photo, Vulgamore stands in front of Santiago Calatrava’s futuristic design for a new Symphony Center, a $300 million project she touted as “a postcard for Georgia.” It was envisioned to rival the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s spectacular Disney Hall in box-office draw, acoustics, high-art cachet and, not least, in making Atlanta feel it had an arts space the whole city would embrace.
It’s not too soon to speculate about her replacement. My bet would be that someone with substantive orchestral management experience who can chart a straight path toward a new (and likely much less expensive) concert hall will instantly be a leading candidate.
Here’s more from ajc.com.
The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Peter Dobrin has been working on the Philadelphia angle for a while, and has this update.