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Stuart Flack leaving Humanities Festival

Mark Caro

4:38 PM EST, November 28, 2012

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The Chicago Humanities Festival announced Wednesday that Stuart Flack, its executive director since 2007, has resigned and will be leaving the organization Dec. 31.

“I've been here for five years, I think we've done great work, built a great team, and professionally there's just a lot more stuff that I'm interested in doing that's not inside the four walls of the festival,” said Flack, 52, who's also a playwright. He said he timed his exit to come after the conclusion of the most recent Humanities Festival (Nov. 11) and before intense work began on the next one.

During Flack's tenure, the festival broadened its reach by establishing festival days on the Northwestern University and University of Chicago campuses, creating the two-week “Stages, Sights and Sounds” international children's festival in the spring and expanding its online presence in marketing/sales as well as content, with videos of about 150 festival programs now posted. The festival has faced increased competition in recent years, with the two-year-old Chicago Ideas Festival positioning itself just weeks before the Humanities Festival's main 11-day run in November, but the organization reported that this year's “America”-themed event produced record attendance.

Flack, who had been a principal in the Chicago office of management consulting firm McKinsey & Company and publisher of its McKinsey Quarterly business management journal at the time of his appointment, said he is developing two new plays at Chicago Dramatists, where he is a resident playwright, as well as a dance-theater piece for the local Seldoms dance company.

“I'm also thinking about what my next leadership opportunity might be,” he added.

CHF artistic director Matti Bunzl called Fleck's departure “a big loss for us” but said he understood that Fleck would want to return to his creative life after overseeing a successful festival. “The kind of workload he had and all that he accomplished with us, it was clear (the playwriting) had to be on the back burner,” Bunzl said.

The organization announced that Humanities Festival program committee chair Clark Hulse, former dean of the Graduate College at the University of Illinois at Chicago, will serve as interim executive director while a national search to fill the position is conducted.