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Christopher Zinovitch has been discharged from his position as artistic director of ArtsWest Playhouse and Gallery.

Zinovitch worked at ArtsWest, a nonprofit cultural center in West Seattle’s downtown Junction district, for 13 years. He was artistic director since 2011 before his immediate dismissal by the ArtsWest board of directors Thursday evening.

Zinovitch said he had been meeting with the board to “work through some things for about 60 days, and I thought I was coming to terms with some of the things they wanted me to deal with. So this was kind of a surprise.”

ArtsWest confirmed his departure Friday in a news release that praised Zinovitch’s service and accomplishments, singling out his leadership in producing annual seasons of plays and musicals. The release also noted ArtsWest was recently honored with an American Theatre Wing 2012 National Theatre Company Award.

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Zinovitch said he and the board held different ideas about “leadership style” and the “mission of ArtsWest,” but provided no details.

ArtsWest board president Judy Pigott declined to comment on the reasons for Zinovitch’s dismissal, calling it “a tremendously difficult decision.”

ArtsWest has had several changes of leadership recently. In 2011, Alan Harrison departed after five years as executive director. Zinovitch was promoted to oversee artistic operations, including the theater, a gallery and education programs; and on the business end, Line Sandsmark filled the newly created post of managing director.

Sandsmark resigned after less than a year in the job. Laura Lee is currently ArtsWest’s interim managing director as a permanent manager is sought.

Pigott said ArtsWest is financially sound, with an annual budget of about $850,000 and no debt. It finished the last fiscal year with a small cash surplus, thanks to strong ticket sales for the 2012-13 theater season.

The board will hire a new artistic director, with much the same duties, she said, and will present the 2013-14 season of shows selected earlier by Zinovitch.

“We are continuing with our season, our gallery, our educational programs,” Pigott said. “We believe it is so valuable to have a place for the arts in West Seattle, and that will continue.”

Misha Berson:

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