Lawrence Arts Center director announces resignation

David Leamon began job in November; new search committee formed

The previous executive director of the Lawrence Arts Center stayed 33 years. The current director won’t last nine months.

David Leamon, who joined the arts center in November, announced to the arts center staff Wednesday that he will resign at the end of this month. Now, the center’s board of directors must start another search to fill the position.

“I think he largely wants to spend more time with his family and pursue his own interests as well,” said Mike Maude, president of the arts center’s board of directors. “He’s an artist in his own right, and this job as executive director of the arts center is a demanding job. It requires a lot of time and a lot of commitment, and so he decided it was in his best interest really to pursue his own interest.”

Leamon did not return a message seeking comment Wednesday.

Before starting at the arts center, 940 N.H., he was director of the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library from 1992 to 2005. He said at the time he decided to come out of retirement in his late 60s because he had always admired the Lawrence Arts Center from afar.

“If I can really get this thing going and develop a strong rapport with the staff and the public, I’d probably love to keep doing this,” Leamon said when he was hired. “It’s one of those things I always dreamed of, but I never thought I’d cross an opportunity like that.”

Maude admitted board members weren’t prepared for the resignation.

“We were a bit surprised, naturally, having gone through a search process not long ago,” Maude said. “We’ve already formed a new search committee. They’ll be meeting for the first time next week and get this process underway.”

The previous search to replace founding director Ann Evans, who retired in late 2007 after serving 33 years, took longer than those involved had hoped. Officials thought they had made a hire in June 2008, when they narrowed their finalists to one — Talena Mara, a former education director at New York City Opera who also has taught at the Juilliard School in New York. But the center’s board and Mara weren’t able to come to terms.

This time, Maude is again hoping for a shorter search process. He said the board will focus on “strong management skills and fundraising experience,” with less of a requirement that the experience be in the arts.

Search committee members include Bill Carswell, June Jones, Michel Loomis and Phil Rademacher. Dan Sabatini, who chaired the previous search committee, also will advise the new group.

“We have everything from the first search that we can pretty much run with in terms of job description and those kinds of things, a number of contacts we had made in that process that we can go back to,” Maude said. “I do believe we can shorten that process considerably, but three months is probably the very earliest we could expect to have someone on board.”