Inner-City Arts, a skid row center that provides free arts education to underprivileged youth, has undergone an abrupt change in leadership, with President and Chief Executive Joseph Collins departing the organization after less than two years on the job.
The center’s board of directors announced Collins’ departure this week and said that it has named Robert Smiland to lead the organization. The new appointment is an unusual choice for the center given Smiland’s private-sector background and lack of experience running a nonprofit.
Reached by phone, Collins said that his departure from Inner-City Arts was amicable but declined to elaborate. He said that he is now working as a consultant.
Board members at Inner-City Arts said that Collins left on his own accord. “I think he felt he wasn’t a good fit for Inner-City Arts, and the board agreed that he was not the right leader for that moment,” said Susan Emerling, a board member.
Doug Hinchliffe, a former chairman who sits on the board, said that Collins' executive management skills fell short. “I think this was the right step for him and for Inner-City Arts,” he said.
Before coming to Inner-City Arts in 2011, Collins worked at the Kanye West Foundation, a charitable group established by the pop star that closed two years ago under uncertain circumstances. Before that, he worked at the Door, an arts education organization in New York.
Smiland, who started his new job at Inner-City Arts on Monday, spent 25 years running the family-owned Smiland Paint Co. in Alhambra. After the company was sold, he worked as chief sales and marketing officer for Monrovia Nursery Co. before retiring last year.
In addition to his business experience, Smiland has served on the boards of various charitable organizations geared toward youth, including vice chair of the L.A. Metropolitan YMCA from 1996 to 2002.
“We wanted someone with leadership skill and experience, and someone with management skills, which aren’t always the same,” said Emerling. She also said Smiland’s volunteer experience with youth-oriented organizations was key.
Founded in 1989, Inner-City Arts is located in the skid row area of downtown L.A. The organization serves hundreds of students of all ages each year from around L.A. County.