Scottsdale Arts Playing Musical Chairs

The new head of Scottsdale Arts, Gerd Wuestemann, started work four weeks ago.

Three managers at Scottsdale Arts, Sara Cochran, Kathy Joyce and Stephen Baker, were fired two weeks ago.

Today, many in the arts community remain baffled how, after only two weeks on the job, Wuestemann could have so quickly evaluated the performances of Cochran, Joyce and Baker - and then, without warning, dumped them.

Unless, of course, he was only doing someone else's dirty work.

The organization didn't make a peep in public about the firings. No news release. No burying the news in one of the cheerful updates about how well things were going at Scottsdale Arts from the Chair of the Board of Trustees, Kathy Wills. No nothing.  Except for an email from Wuestemann assuring employees that things couldn't be better.

Dr. Wuestemann, a seasoned arts administrator who came here from LaFayette, Louisiana, wrote: "We are fortunate to have developed a clear path forward, enabling us to empower some of Scottsdale Arts' existing team members."

Hold your horses, Dr. W.

Sara Cochran was the Director and Curator of the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA).  Kathy Joyce was Director of Development.  Stephen Baker was Director of Marketing.  Their hasty and simultaneous departure has left the organization playing a game of musical chairs ... although no one will admit it.

Judge for yourself:

A former SMoCA curator returns to assume the role of acting director of the museum. The organization is now in the process of hiring a new curator for SMoCA.  For the time being, a member of the senior staff is leading the Development Department.  The need for a new team leader is being evaluated.  The Marketing Department is currently being guided by the department's senior staff.  A new managing director of Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts is expected to be named in the near future.

It's unclear if Wuestemann had any clue about what he was walking into or the deed he would be told to carry out during his first two weeks on the job.    

Depending on different people's perspectives, Scottsdale Arts is either in transition or turmoil.  Whatever the case, the organization is suffering through another period of instability - which, at Scottsdale Arts, is called "business as usual."

The names may change, including the CEO and department heads, and employees shuffled from one position to another -- but many of the same problems still persist.  That would tell most organizations they had serious internal issues embedded in their culture.  However, Scottsdale Arts isn't like most organizations.

The most critical thing that hasn't changed at Scottsdale Arts is the series of poor decisions and the people responsible for making them.