SMAC to the head

This isn’t the first time Jonathon Glus surprised a city by leaving an arts leadership position

The person tasked with turning Sacramento into a vibrant, economically viable hub for the arts has exited his position—and the city’s burgeoning scene—after just over a year on the job.

Jonathon Glus, director of Creative and Cultural Economy and manager of the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission, resigned to take an unspecified job in Southern California. Initially hired by the city in July 2017, Glus was brought on with the expressed purpose of developing a new plan to transform Sacramento into a thriving arts hub. The resulting blueprint, called Creative Edge and approved by the City Council in July, was the fruit of over 60 community meetings and a survey of approximately 1,000 residents and visitors. It’s the city’s first comprehensive arts initiative in more than 20 years.

Glus released an official statement on the SMAC website:

“Dear friends: I would like to announce that I will be leaving my position with the City of Sacramento, as I have accepted a new position in Southern California. My decision was difficult, but ultimately it was a family decision.”

The rest of Glus’ statement acknowledges the hard work and dedication of the arts community and thanks Sacramento for welcoming him.

Spending just 16 months with SMAC, Glus took his leave last week. His departure coincides with SMAC’s move to City Hall to accommodate the start of renovations at the Sacramento Convention Center and Community Center Theater.

It’s not the first time Glus has made a relatively abrupt exit. In February 2017, Texas art publication Glasstire reported that he also stepped down from his previous position as CEO of the Houston Arts Alliance unexpectedly, to the surprise of both board and staff members. The circumstances behind that decision are unclear. The specifics of Glus’ new position were not publicly announced before print deadline. Glus did not respond to SN&R’s inquiries.

The departure of Creative Edge’s leader raises questions about the fate of the initiative. Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commissioner and Creative Edge steering committee member Maya Wallace says she finds Glus’ departure unfortunate, but believes he has done much to build and encourage SMAC staff to move forward with the plan.

“He’s done a pretty good job of hiring very qualified people who can pick it up and run with it, and he’s empowered them to do that,” she said.

Besides the loss of Glus, Wallace notes other challenges for Creative Edge’s future, including the need for sufficient financial resources and establishing trust with artists through community engagement. She cites Measure U as one of the only funding sources identified for carrying out Creative Edge’s objectives. How people vote on November 6 could have a significant impact on how the initiative proceeds, she says, but not everyone is convinced that Measure U will be administered appropriately.

“A lot of apprehension in the community is that there isn’t a way to meaningfully oversee those funds,” Wallace explained. “If we had more community input and participation on a lot of elements of how the city does its work, people would feel a lot more comfortable in voting for something like that.”

Despite hurdles, Wallace emphasizes that there are still people in place with the necessary expertise to achieve the vision laid out by the Creative Edge initiative. If they want it to succeed, she says, it will take continued effort and dedication.

“I feel like we are off to a great start with Creative Edge,” Wallace said. “We definitely did more, and took way more time to [engage the community] than we have done in other projects, at least in my experience. … I don’t want this to atrophy because of other elements that are happening.”