The executive director of the often troubled Sandy Springs Arts Foundation has made a quiet exit, taking a new job leading a Buckhead-based educational nonprofit.

Emily Hutmacher started work this month as executive director of Playworks Georgia, the local affiliate of a national organization that provides schools with structured play and programs for recess, according to spokesperson Doniell Glass. Playworks Georgia operates at 1708 Peachtree St. in southern Buckhead.

Emily Hutmacher. (Special)

“I’m excited to help improve school climate for all kids and school staff throughout Georgia,” said Hutmacher in a Playworks press release. “…[T]he beginning of the school year is when our coaches hear about needs that schools would like to address.”

Hutmacher took the reins at the Foundation in Sandy Springs about 18 months ago, and it is unclear when she left. The Foundation made no public announcement of her departure or any successor. Her name remains on the Foundation’s website and voicemail. Hutmacher, Foundation board chair Ken Byers and other board members did not immediately respond to comment requests.

The nonprofit Foundation, originally established by city government, began working in 2017 with a mission of subsidizing arts programs, especially at Sandy Springs’ City Springs civic center and its Performing Arts Center. That included grants for programming subsidies and arts education, running a campaign where donors would get their names on brick pavers, and vetting naming opportunities for the PAC and other City Springs facilities.

When the Foundation board finally hired Hutmacher to fill the executive director position in early 2018 after organizing struggles, there was only six months left before the PAC’s grand opening. She quickly cautioned the board about public and internal confusion regarding the Foundation’s mission and cut back on some fundraising gala plans she called overly ambitious. At the time, the organization was far behind on a $7.5 million fundraising goal, and Hutmacher began work on a quick version of a strategic plan.

In late 2018, the Foundation board severed its ties with the city and reorganized as a private nonprofit for several reasons, including the reduction of possible legal conflicts and to shield itself from laws requiring open meetings and open records. The Foundation has been providing $500,000 in funding to the PAC this year, but the brick program has yet to materialize and the building remains unnamed by a donor.

It is unclear whether city officials were aware of the Foundation’s leadership change or have any concerns about its support of the PAC. “Since the foundation is not affiliated with the city, we must defer to its leadership to make any comments,” said city spokesperson Sharon Kraun.

–Hannah Greco contributed

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.