A little Thursday afternoon commentary on The Skylight

I'm a real "hate the sin, not hate the sinner" kind of guy. That's why its disheartening to see what is happening in the rhetoric at The Skylight.

I will start off my thoughts by saying that I entered this discussion because I believe it is a community discussion. I don't believe it is a discussion about one person being better than the other. I don't believe that there is an evil plot at work.

I do believe that a change that a group of people wanted or needed to make was handled poorly. Perhaps as poorly as you can handle this kind of change.

It may be heresy to even suggest this, but we've not really brought up the possibility that the people who were fired at Skylight may not have been good at their jobs. I'm not suggesting that they were, and frankly I don't have an opinion about that. But the current history might be a little revisionist due to the monumentally bad handling of this change and how people who are just simply really fine and wonderful people were let go in the worst possible manner in a very delicate arena.

I just got off the phone with George Tzougros, Executive Director of The Wisconsin Arts Board, who contacted me from Seattle at the American for The Arts Conference to get the low down on what's happening with this whole Skylight mess. George passed on something that Bill Ivey, the former NEA Chairperson mentioned in an address to the conference attendees that struck me about this situation. Mr. Ivey was talking about how the conversation at the conference often relates to how everyone involved in the arts around the country is talking about the need for change. Ivey went on to say that the change that folks in the arts are looking for often means "we want things to stay the same, just better."

Perhaps part of the reason for the enormous discomfort with this flap at The Skylight is that there's a lot of internal hoping and praying for something that exists only in imagination. Has The Skylight been thriving? That's open for speculation, and you can spin all the numbers however you want. The real tragedy of this situation is that there was an assumption on the part of the Skylight Board that the community was ready for (and had been prepared for) the news of this new restructuring plan.

We don't yet know anything about how The Skylight plans to thrive under a singular management leadership structure. At this point we can all just assume that the plan is locked away in someone's desk drawer at 158 N. Broadway, and as soon as someone finds the key, they'll let us all know how it's going to work. If indeed the conspiracy theorists are right and Eric Dillner has plotted to become the Artistic and Managing Director of The Skylight, then I say he is to be looked at with awe and wonder for the major set of balls he has in his belief in being able to do both jobs well. I've tried to do that with a much smaller company, the former Bialystock & Bloom, and it is an all consuming job that will kick anyone's ass. Clearly my balls were not as big. Good luck, Eric Dillner. Good luck Skylight Board of Directors. Good luck Skylight staff. I know you will need it.

As for those who have been fired, the future is uncertain for them. Not a great place to be, and my thoughts go out to all of those folks, good and decent individuals all.

But let us also consider for a moment the artists, artisans and administrators left at The Skylight who are charged with carrying out the plan to make The Skylight vibrantly approach and execute their 50th year. I would argue that there is even greater uncertainty for those folks. I don't think anyone who is struggling through this tricky economy can fault the pros remaining at The Skylight for holding on to the jobs that feed and house their families, all while working through a week of indecision that I would never wish upon anyone.

Perhaps the shiny goal for the future is known to the internal corps at The Skylight. And perhaps we will know more about it in the coming days. The silence of the key players is not altogether surprising, but it is somehow disheartening.

I must point out that there has not been complete silence from the internal players regarding this off stage drama. On my own personal front, a Skylight Board member contacted one of the Board members of the organization I serve with great honor, The Sunset Playhouse. That Skylight Board member leveled displeasure with some of my comments as a blogger in regards to my position of authority within another arts group in the region. I am lucky to work alongside a fabulous Board at The Sunset Playhouse full of members who constantly exhibit a refreshing amount of candor and open communication with me, so this conversation was immediately brought to my attention.

My response to this Board to Board tete a tete was to listen to my Board member, acknowledge the Skylight Board member via e-mail correspondence and invite that Skylight Board member to communicate directly with me in the future. I look forward to any and all conversations personally with The Skylight Board regarding the unfolding Skylight story.

Clearly the community wants The Skylight to thrive. There's just some disagreement about how that will take shape. Looking into the future is an imperfect exercise. Personal histories can inform how we imagine life unfolding, and let's face it, everyone has an opinion about art. I for one know that somehow we're all going to live with what happens in the coming days regarding The Skylight. We'll all have our opinions about the approach and the means of achieving success, and we'll never end our debate over what success really means. But I hope the rhetoric can find a way to rise above the personal accusations and character attacks that even I have started to feel.

More later. There's always more, right?