The business of artistic leadership


I was immediately struck when I saw the byline for this article on the New York Times website: “according to recent interviews he was forced out in a shift toward a business rather than an artistic leadership.”

Edward Villella is the well-respected artistic director of the Miami City Ballet, who is now retiring at the age of 75. Seems pretty late to retire – but not for Mr. Villella or many of his patrons. Mr. Villella’s creative vision has become synonymous with the MCB, but many worry that his retirement is being forced early because of his inability to “play ball” with the corporate bigwigs and Floridian funders of the ballet. This to me spoke right to Bilton’s dissection of the predominantly useless and damaging divide we seem to place on management and artistry. As artistic director, Villella was in a position of both management and creation, and is renowned for his artistry; and yet, his inability to manage to the stringent business standards of the board have long been a source of conflict for him in this position.

I don’t know Villella personally to make a call as to whether he really was unable to meet the “business standards” of being in a leadership position with MCB, but I do think this calls to question some of the interesting (and somewhat controversial) discussions that the creative industries need to have about the tenuous role of balancing artistic vision and business acumen.



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