Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts CEO Bill Gilmore is resigning his position as head of the organization after 37 years spent serving the city.
“It has been an honor and a pleasure to work with Team BOPA, the most outstanding and dedicated staff on planet Earth,” Gilmore said in a release sent out today. “The work that we have accomplished together has had a profound, long lasting and positive effect on the City of Baltimore.”
BOPA has developed a wide range of festive programming highlighting Baltimore’s rich arts scene under Gilmore’s leadership. He joined the organization as a part-time graphic designer in 1980 and rose through the ranks to become art director, promotions director and deputy director before former Mayor Kurt Schmoke appointed him to be its director and CEO.
Gilmore helped craft and broaden the Artscape festival, which began two years after he joined, as well as the Baltimore Farmers’ Market & Bazaar, the Baltimore Book Festival, Free Fall Baltimore, regular holiday events on New Year’s Eve and Fourth of July and School 33’s Open Studio Tour.
Specifically, he helped put Artscape on the map by creating the Janet & Walter Sondheim Artscape Prize 12 years ago. The prize awards a $25,000 fellowship to an artist or artist team working in the Baltimore area.
Mayor Catherine Pugh said in a statement that Gilmore’s “impact on arts and culture in Baltimore will be a testament to his amazing commitment for many generations to come.”
“His leadership and his vision have served many mayors, and I feel particularly blessed that he served as part of my team,” she said.
More recently, Gilmore led BOPA in developing the annual light art and social innovation festival Light City, which wrapped up its second rendition this past April. Gilmore defended his organization in the months ahead of this year’s festival as BOPA weathered a legal battle with the festival’s founders, Brooke Hall Allen and Justin Allen, in federal court. Both sides settled out of court this past spring for an undisclosed amount.
His resignation comes days after BOPA rescinded a controversial Baltimore Book Festival speaker’s invitation to former Spokane, Wash., NAACP chapter president Rachel Dolezal, who lied about being black and stepped down from her post in 2015.
Gilmore said in the release that he plans on sticking around for other work in Baltimore. “In the coming months, I hope to find another opportunity to play a role in moving our beloved city forward,” he said.
He’ll remain a member of the organization’s board of directors until a replacement has been picked, according to BOPA’s release.