The Sarasota County Arts Council has taken another step in overhauling its image. On Thursday, Nov. 5, the Arts Council appointed Jim Shirley as executive director. He replaces Russ Crumley, who was hired last fall to lead the arts organization.
Shirley, 61, a longtime Sarasota resident and the owner of an executive search firm, served for five years as the director of development at PAL Sailor Circus, where his responsibilities included developing a capital campaign for a new performance arena, in addition to running the circus’ fundraising, marketing and public relations efforts.
The announcement comes less than three months after the Arts Council trimmed its board down to four key members — John Alan Fischer, executive director of the Artist Series of Sarasota; Linda DiGabriele, managing director of the Asolo Repertory Theatre; Pedro Reis, founder of Circus Sarasota; and Ringling College of Art and Design President Dr. Larry Thompson, who has served as board president since August.
"We are excited to have an individual with such strong connections in the community join the organization as we head into the new year and begin the process of refocusing our mission on advocacy and community outreach,” said Thompson.
Crumley will remain with the organization on a part-time basis for several weeks during the transition.
According to Shirley, Crumley, a St. Petersburg business consultant, was unable to relocate to Sarasota following his appointment a year ago, which hindered his ability to unify Sarasota County arts groups and deepen the council’s community ties.
“While it might seem sudden to people who have not been heavily involved in the council, this is something that has evolved over the last three months,” Shirley said. “There’s been a shift in the focus of the council. We’re sharpening our advocacy within the community and one of Russ’ handicaps was that he’s not been able to affect that shift from St. Petersburg.”
At a series of summer workshops organized by Crumley, local arts group leaders expressed concern over the council’s lack of advocacy. Shirley, who has never served on the Arts Council board of directors, was asked to call on his local connections to help lead the organization through difficult economic times.
“This move is crucial for our organization’s success,” said Crumley, who will continue to develop his consulting business after he leaves the Arts Council. “(Jim’s) efforts will be instrumental in helping the council achieve both immediate and longer-term goals.”
Contact Heidi Kurpiela at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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