Amid months of turmoil, Charlotte Art League replaces leader and gets a new board

The Charlotte Art League, after confronting months of leadership turmoil, financial worries, potential eviction and an uncertain future, now has a new executive director and new board of directors.

The previous 13-member board for Charlotte’s oldest art gallery had quit en masse amid the ongoing concerns in the past few months.

ART LEAGUE TURMOIL: Charlotte group roiled by money issues, eviction risk, entire board quitting

The nonprofit’s new board already has met and named Kate McAllister as interim executive director, the group said in its monthly email newsletter late Wednesday. McAllister previously served the league as director of operations from 2019 to 2022.

She replaces Jim Dukes as executive director. Former board members had raised concerns about the 59-year-old group’s finances, including that it faced potential eviction after falling $200,000 behind on rent on its NoDa home, The Charlotte Observer reported last month.

In a statement to the Observer last month, Dukes did not address specific issues but said he denied “allegations and statements” by the former board members. Dukes could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.

It was not immediately clear what led to Dukes’ departure.

“McAllister is a well-practiced nonprofit professional who brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to help CAL navigate these unprecedented times,” the Charlotte Art League said in the email. “We are confident that along with our new Board, Kate will help to lead our organization in the right direction.”

McAllister was not immediately available for comment Thursday.

On Thursday morning, the league’s website still listed Dukes as executive director. No board minutes or agenda items are listed on the website.

Following months of turmoil, the Charlotte Art League has new leaders and a new executive director.
Following months of turmoil, the Charlotte Art League has new leaders and a new executive director.

Previous board concerns

Around the time that the old board quit, members said they were unaware of the league’s financial trouble, including back rent, the Observer had reported. In 2022, the art league moved into its new home near East Sugar Creek Road and the Blue Line light rail extension.

The downstairs gallery area could accommodate 54 artists with studios and wall display spaces. The building also had a digital arts accelerator, which provided room for conferences, podcasting, and video and photo shoots.

But by late last year, the art league owed building owner Flywheel Group more than $200,000, according to a letter that the property manager wrote to Dukes, the Observer had reported. Board members said they only learned of the debt after the property manager notified them in November, the Observer had reported.

“It’s with my deepest regrets that I have arrived at the nadir in my service to the board and Charlotte Art League,” read one resignation letter. “... In the light of the recent developments around our true financial state, it’s unfitting for me to continue in my role.”

Art league leaders would meet Friday with representatives from Flywheel, said Brent Finnell, the board’s new first vice president. Finnell said he hoped the two groups could work out a solution.

“The building is certainly one of the things that we’re looking at, trying to assess potential income from the different areas of the building, the event space, the artist workshop, the creative studio,” Finnell said. “We’re open to any ideas.”

Kellie Horne, an artist and member of the art league, said she hopes the organization can remain in its current building or in the NoDa area.

“We’re not quite sure how it all got done, but we’re ready to move on and rebuild and forget the whole drama,” Horne said. “I’ve heard good things about the new board and new interim executive director.”

About the new CAL board

As for the new six-member board, it has chosen its officers, “knowing that they will need to be intimately involved in the day-to-day operations moving forward,” the league said in its email.

The board was elected by its membership the weekend of March 29, a CAL official said. The board met April 2 and April 16.

New board members in addition to Finnell are: Bo Caudill, president; Syreeta Carter, second vice president; Lianna Rossman, treasurer; Adam Tolbert, secretary; and Melanie Dunston, member at large.

All of the new board members agree that fundraising has to be part of their responsibilities, according to Finnell.

The league had $37,200 in net revenue in fiscal year 2019, according to publicly available IRS nonprofit tax documents. It had a net loss of $21,600 the following year. And in fiscal year 2021, the most recent of data available online, it had a gross revenue of $219,300 while finishing in the black with $20,300 net revenue.

Revenue sources could come from grants, corporate sponsors, private donations, memberships and events such as weddings or art sales, Finnell said.

“I think the most important thing for us is to make sure the Charlotte Art League continues to support the community one way or another,” he said.

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