An open letter to Eric Dillner at The Skylight

Dear Eric,

I write this letter to you, not as a patron of The Skylight, not as a past performer at The Skylight, but as a professional colleague. I think the time has come to admit something, my friend. You are in a no win situation, and conceding that is going to go a long way towards letting The Skylight start the monumental work it needs to do to steer the ship in the right direction.

This is not meant as an indictment to your character, these are just the plan facts. Since the announced management change at The Skylight here's how the scorecard looks. On the minus side:

  1. Patrons have started to request subscription refunds
  2. At least one annual donor who gives at a more than respectable level has publicly said they will not be doing that and are taking Skylight out of their will
  3. A growing group of artists who have supported The Skylight with their talents over the years have said they will not continue to perform at The Skylight because of this decision
  4. At least two Skylight Board members have resigned
  5. The lead critic of the single major daily print and online news source in this market, the man who you and your marketing person must deal with to pitch ideas for celebratory stories about The Skylight, has just written a stinging criticism of how this has all played out and has called for your resignation.
On the plus side:
  1. How about this weather. Gotta love our Milwaukee summers!
I know it's not easy to say, "I'm licked." But sometimes saying that is life's greatest grace.

I was struck reading an article from this weekend's New York Times Magazine written by Matt Bai called "Everyone a Winner? The Lost Art of Conceding Defeat." You might want to give that a read.

I'm not saying that you can't do it. Maybe you can. I'm just saying that if you love The Skylight in the way that you have expressed, then the greatest show of your love might be saying, "Sorry. It's time for me to go."

I've thought about what I would do in your shoes, and since I am a Managing Director of a 50 year old institution, too, it seems pretty clear to me. I'd step down. I serve at the pleasure of the volunteers, artists and patrons of my institution. If I displeased them in the manner of what is happening at Skylight now, I'd step down, tough as it might be.


Jonathan West