Black Administrators of Opera have issued a public letter in support of Afton Battle, the outgoing General and Artistic Director of Fort Worth Opera.
“You have demonstrated competence, courage, and leadership in your successful tenure with Fort Worth Opera,” reads the opening lines of the letter. “ Experienced as an opera singer, arts administrator, fundraiser, and arts activist, you were uniquely poised to fill the role of Fort Worth Opera’s general and artistic director. We see you. We write this letter to acknowledge your work and profound example of leadership in the opera field and nonprofit performing arts.”
The letter goes on to explore how Battle defied the odds at Fort Worth Opera as well as spotlighting her sound business decisions at the head of the company.
“In addition to financially sound business decisions, the performance locations throughout the community engaged ‘people who never go to Bass Hall,’” the letter continues. “This decision helped make the company and the opera art form more visible and accessible to the community. Your efforts to ‘right size’ the company and ‘produce within its means’ helped stabilize its finances, programming, and community engagement, placing Fort Worth Opera in a better position than when you arrived.”
The letter concludes by thanking Battle for a series of her major achievements during her tenure at Fort Worth Opera including “being an ‘artivist.’ Art is not apolitical, nor is it a tool to solely entertain without the awareness and consciousness of its creators and audiences. Art has always played a role in reflecting the people, present in the works of many beloved opera composers who addressed issues of their time. They were not silent then, and we are not silent now. Thank you for demonstrating what this can be in the 21st century as an organizational and industry-wide leader — as an artivist.”
Read the full letter here.
Battle commenced her tenure back in 2020 and then announced her resignation on Nov. 23, 2022. That notice came months after she had taken to social media to state that “Y’all know the challenges of being Black in this world. Magnify that with being a woman running an arts organization in a conservative city and state… Running this company hasn’t been easy, y’all. And [I’m] sure you can guess why.”
Per Kera News, several former board members left the company over concerns about the direction Battle was taking the organization. Less than one month after Battle announced her resignation, the company already had her replacement, Angela Turner Wilson, lined up.