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Chicago artist Theaster Gates latest to resign from DuSable Museum board

Theaster Gates Jr. shown in his studio in 2016. | Sun-Times file photo

In the latest shakeup at the DuSable Museum of African American History, Chicago artist Theaster Gates has resigned from the museum’s board of trustees, according to a report in Crain’s Chicago Business.

Gates joins a growing list of prominent departures from the museum board following last week’s exodus of seven trustees, including Chance the Rapper and his father Ken Bennett, a friend and former aide to both Mayor Rahm Emanuel and former President Barack Obama.

DuSable CEO Perri Irmer and other museum officials did not immediately return messages seeking comment on Friday. After the resignations last week, Irmer sent an email to staffers acknowledging “you may hear that we have had a few trustees resign from the board.

“Although we are sorry to see dedicated trustees depart, we understand that the mission of the DuSable Museum is more important now than ever before, and we will take this opportunity to continue to build our board of trustees and focus our efforts on the present — and the future — of this great institution,” Irmer wrote.

When asked by Crain’s why there had been so many board departures of late, Irmer was quoted as saying: “I can’t answer that.”

Gates did not return messages. He teaches at the University of Chicago and has earned renown as an installation artist, best known for his “Dorchester Projects” — two dilapidated buildings that he turned into cultural institutions on the South Side.

The museum has been in tough financial straits since before Irmer took over in 2015. The museum ran a budget deficit of more than $1.2 million in 2016, tax filings show.

Among the first independent African-American history museums nationwide, DuSable, with an annual budget of over $4 million, has like most small niche museums faced declining revenues and government funding in recent years. It saw about 100,000 visitors in 2015, compared to nearly 118,500 in 2014. It also has experienced transition pains, with a dispute over artistic direction erupting between new and older board members in 2015.