Downtown arts development Le Mondo fires former executive director amid allegations of abusive behavior

Le Mondo’s three buildings on the 400 block of Howard Street. Photo courtesy of Facebook.

Yesterday afternoon, the downtown multi-use arts project Le Mondo fired Ric Royer, cutting all professional ties with its former executive director who resigned in August after the board was presented with allegations about his behavior. Recently, Royer had accepted a position with Le Mondo’s real estate affiliate company, Howard Street Incubator, LLC.

He was fired because he contacted someone he was specifically barred from contacting, according to a press release.

Allegations about Royer’s abusive behavior toward women started to come out on Facebook this past spring, just before Le Mondo was gearing up for a soft opening of its multimillion-dollar, multi-use arts space located in the Bromo Arts District this summer.

In a press release dated Nov. 17, which was posted to Le Mondo’s Facebook page three days later, the staff and board announced that in August, the board met with “members of the local arts community to evaluate the gravity of the accusations made against” Royer. This statement did not elaborate on or clarify what kind of “allegations” were made, though it did note that “[t]hese allegations reflected this individual’s personal conduct in the arts community and its detrimental impact on others.”

Le Mondo’s code of ethics, posted on its website, spell out what kind of “artist-owned performance venue, live/work studio space, and community-focused cafe and bar” it aspires to be. Among other standards it lists: “Creating and maintaining live/work spaces that are safe and accessible to all people and walks of life, free from harassment and discrimination.”

According to the statement and Le Mondo’s recorded timeline of events, the Baltimore Arts Accountability Coalition contacted the board on June 24. On Aug. 17, the board met with women from the BAAC and heard testimony about Royer, and after the board expressed concerns, Royer resigned as executive director on Aug. 24. He was also removed from the board. At that point Royer was “no longer involved in guiding the general direction of Le Mondo, working directly with artists in any capacity, or managing productions in the space,” the statement read. He still retained a job with Howard Incubator LLC, however, which deals with Le Mondo properties.

“Guided by ideas of restorative justice,” the board voted to approve “continued provisional employment” for Royer as a development consultant for Howard Street Incubator, LLC. In order for Royer to keep working in that capacity, he was supposed to follow a set of rules, which the board would monitor and evaluate over a six-month period. (Full disclosure, one of the 15 board members at the time was my friend Lydia Pettit, who has since resigned.)

In the days after Le Mondo posted its first public statement, many local artists and community members took to Facebook to voice their frustration about keeping Royer on even in that capacity.  

“You ask for funding, you ask for patience, you ask for artists to take you seriously . . . and when the survivors of sexual abuse that YOU enabled ask you to act, you fail them,” anonymous theatre critic the Bad Oracle commented on Le Mondo’s post.

When the Beat asked Le Mondo for clarification on the nature of the allegations, co-founder and current co-director Carly J. Bales responded in an email, “We were approached about allegations of emotional abuse and manipulation, not sexual assault.”

“Several affected women submitted their personal experiences confidentially to the Le Mondo board. The women described experiences that ranged from sexual harassment with emotional manipulation to sexual assault,” says Cynthia Blake Sanders, a lawyer with Maryland Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts who is assisting one of the women.

Several commenters took issue with Le Mondo’s use of “restorative justice.” Restorative justice is a more compassionate alternative to the criminal justice system, wherein a survivor’s safety and needs are prioritized in order for the community to hold the perpetrator accountable for the harm they have caused.

Royer is an artist, writer, and performer who founded the avant-garde performance group Psychic Readings Co. in 1999. He was an organizer of the Transmodern Festival from 2005 to 2009. In 2015, Psychic Readings opened as a venue on Park Avenue downtown, after Royer returned to Baltimore from Providence, where he had worked with the arts space AS220. In 2014, Royer, Bales, and Evan Moritz submitted a proposal to turn three buildings on the 400 block of Howard Street into a performance art incubator—this project became the nonprofit Le Mondo. Royer told the Sun in an article that was published in June that Le Mondo would take a couple more years and somewhere between $4 million and $6 million to complete.

In a statement provided to the Beat (quoted in part below), Royer neither confirmed nor denied the allegations and said, “I feel a sense of relief that my absence from Le Mondo will give the arts community some listening space through which generative conversations can follow. I hope my departure from the project is a means of bringing some closure to this painful psychic period.”

In a press release dated and timestamped Nov. 30, 2017, at 12:30 p.m., which was posted to Facebook seven hours later, Le Mondo’s current co-executive directors Bales and Moritz wrote that “Le Mondo, Inc. has terminated the employment of Ric Royer as Development Consultant for our real estate affiliate company.”

Before noon that morning, the statement notes, “the board of Le Mondo learned that Ric Royer had acted in direct violation of the terms of his employment. Evidence was brought to the attention of the Board that demonstrated his communication with a party he had agreed not to communicate with, in a manner that infringed upon previously established boundaries and expectations of conduct.

“Ric Royer is expressly prohibited from having any connection, in any capacity, with Le Mondo, ever again,” the statement continues.

Here Le Mondo also invokes “the principles of transformative justice,” and pledges to provide community discussions “about this and other issues of injustice and oppression.” They also say they are reaching out for “training assistance in facilitation and system design to move forward in the most responsible and informed way possible.”

Before noon today, Le Mondo posted a timeline of events from April 24, the date the organization became a nonprofit, through Nov. 30.

Still to come, according to Le Mondo’s statement, are “the principles of transformative justice, that have guided Le Mondo’s actions to this point, in order to help clarify Le Mondo’s decision making process and solicit critique.” The organization is also in search of a new executive director.

Additional reporting by Maura Callahan.

This story has been updated to include a response from Cynthia Blake Sanders.

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