Arts Council chief leaving amid funding woes-WEB ONLY

Arts Council of Indianapolis CEO Greg Charleston is leaving the organization after 15 years.

His July 1 departure comes as the Arts Council faces drastically reduced funding from the city of Indianapolis, and possibly from the Indiana Arts Commission.

“While it is difficult to leave such a great organization and wonderful city, this is a personal decision,” Charleston, 48, said in a prepared statement. “There’s never a perfect time to make this transition, but I’m at a point in my life where I need a new challenge.”

Charleston is moving to Florida to teach as an adjunct professor at Florida Keys College and begin a new career as a writer and playwright.

Shawn Mulholland, chairman of the council’s board of directors, called Charleston’s departure a “huge loss” in a news release. The board is forming a task force to find a new leader.

Neither Charleston nor Mulholland was immediately available for comment.

Whoever fills Charleston’s shoes will face the challenge of replacing as much as $2.5 million in city funding for arts grants-and possibly reduced state funding, too.

The city of Indianapolis has begun trimming its $1.5 million annual parks department grant for the arts, cutting about $500,000 this year. And Marion County’s cash-strapped Capital Improvement Board, which also has provided $1 million in annual funding in the past, last month eliminated $410,000 in grant funding for tourism and arts programs as it works to shore up its own forecasted shortfall of $47 million.

Charleston came to the Arts Council as marketing director in 1994 and advanced to deputy director before being named chief executive in 2004. He was paid $156,400 in 2007, the most recent year for which the not-for-profit organization’s income tax statement is available.

“It’s been very rewarding to help grow the Arts Council into such a tremendous success,” he said in the news release, adding that the council has increased visibility for the arts, expanded partnerships with other organizations and expanded services to arts, all “while reducing our operating budget by 25 percent over the past five years.”

The Arts Council received $860,000 less than it spent in 2007, with $4.9 million in revenue and $5.76 million in expenses, according to the tax filing.

The organization handles both local and state tax dollars and awards $3 million a year in grants to about 75 arts groups. It also supports local artists and encourages arts patronage.

In recent years, it launched the “Be Indypendent” campaign for buying local art; held the first national summit on developing younger arts audiences; and developed a public art program, which included overseeing four major citywide exhibitions.

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