Director of Lexington’s Lyric Theater Whit Whitaker resigns

Whit Whitaker, Executive Director of The Lyric Theater & Cultural Arts Center, speaks during the launch of the domestic violence prevention campaign It's Time Nov.  2, 2022.

Whit Whitaker, Executive Director of The Lyric Theater & Cultural Arts Center, speaks during the launch of the domestic violence prevention campaign It’s Time Nov. 2, 2022.

LFUCG/Amy Wallot

The executive director of the Lexington Lyric, a city-owned theater with deep ties to Lexington’s East Side, resigned Tuesday.

Whit Whitaker, who has been executive director since 2019, said in a letter to the board that he had enjoyed his time at the theater.

“Thank you to any member of the board who has been fully supportive and who has taken the time to know me and walk this journey with me,” Whitaker said.

In the letter dated Jan. 24, Whitaker also hinted that it may not have been his choice to leave.

“While I fear that many of my accomplishments have been grossly understated, underrated, and dismissed and that there may be gaps in the information of which the whole board may or may not be aware, personal agendas aside, I am a better person after having this appointment because I know that my integrity has not wavered and have only acted in the best interest of the organization and the community at large with no malicious intent or agenda,” Whitaker wrote.

His letter also makes reference to a severance, which is typically paid when someone is let go or laid off.

Whitaker is a native of Detroit and a graduate of the University of Kentucky. Prior to joining the Lyric, he served as the Choral Business Director for The Lexington Singers.

The Lyric Theater and Cultural Arts Center is owned by the city.

Charles Fields checks his phone outside the after a forum for mayoral and county attorney candidates at the Lyric Theater in Lexington, Ky., Tuesday, April 26, 2022. “I think it’s going to be a lot closer than they think it is,” Fields said. Silas Walker [email protected]

The Lyric’s Board of Directors plans to meet Saturday to discuss interim operational priorities and goals for the leadership transition, said Board Co-Chairs Pat Tatum and Tiffany Daniels in a statement provided by the city.

The Lyric’s executive director manages staff and volunteers for day-to-day operations of the 540-seat theater, community room, art gallery and museum space. The Lyric’s organizational policies are governed by a 15-member board of directors.

Between 1948 and 1963, the Lyric Theater was a thriving entertainment venue for Lexington’s Black residents. Originally built as a movie house, the Lyric opened at the corner of Third and Deweese Street, now Elm Tree Lane, in Lexington, according to the Lyric’s website.

Notables who performed there during the Lyric’s heyday include Ray Charles, Count Basie and BB King.

It closed in 1963.

The city purchased the building and reopened it as a performance venue and meeting space in 2010. Whitaker was the longest-serving director since 2010. It has had six directors, including interim directors, since it re-opened.

It is still reliant on city money for some of its operations. This year it received $127,500 in city money. The vast majority of its budget comes from revenues it generates as a performance venue.

This story was originally published January 27, 2023 2:17 PM.

Beth Musgrave has covered government and politics for the Herald-Leader for more than a decade. A graduate of Northwestern University, she has worked as a reporter in Kentucky, Indiana, Mississippi, Illinois and Washington DC

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