Lynn Osmond is departing the Chicago Architecture Center after a transformative 25-year run


Lynn Osmond is departing the Chicago Architecture Center after a transformative 25-year run

Lynn Osmond, president and CEO of the Chicago Architecture Center. (Courtesy CAC)

The Chicago Architecture Center (CAC) has announced that Lynn Osmond, the nonprofit organization’s longtime president and CEO, will depart on April 29 to lead Chicago’s official tourism agency, Choose Chicago, as its first female president and CEO. That appointment is effective May 9. Osmond has led CAC since 1996, when the then-30-year-old organization was known as the Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF).

Osmond has piloted the CAC through an eventful 25 years that included the launch of the wildly successful Open House Chicago in 2010, a significant expansion of its public programming and its wildly popular walking tours and architectural sightseeing cruises along the Chicago River operated in partnership with First Lady Cruises, and the bolstering of myriad educational partnerships and initiatives including the release of The Architecture Handbook for high school students. In 2018, CAF formally became CAC with the opening of its 20,000-square-foot new headquarters and AIA award-winning exhibition and event space at the Mies van der Rohe-designed One Illinois Center at 111 East Wacker Drive. This transformative growth occurred despite a slew of disruptive and highly challenging global events including 9/11, the 2018 economic crisis, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which saw CAC make a swift and robust transition to digital programming in lieu of in-person exhibitions and events.

As detailed by CAC, when Osmond joined in 1996 it was a $2.4 million organization with an audience of roughly 150,000 people; 20 years later, in 2016, it had grown into a $25 million organization with an annual audience of 700,000.

“It was a tough decision but I’m excited about this new chapter as I prepare to lead Choose Chicago,” said Osmond in a statement. “I am proud of my 25 years at the Chicago Architecture Center, everything we accomplished and all the work we did to promote our great city and our unmatched architecture. This puts me in a strong position to continue to show the world why Chicago is consistently a top destination for local, national and international visitors.”

Juanna Blackwell, CAC’s chief operating officer, will serve as interim leader while the organization’s Board of Trustees conducts a national search for the next president.

John W. Rutledge, the founder, chairman, and CEO of Oxford Capital Group who serves as chairman of CAC’s Board of Trustees, referred to Osmond as a “transformational leader” whose “energy, vision and passion have resulted in the CAC becoming one of the top ten cultural institutions in the city and is recognized globally.”

“We’re sorry to see her go but are excited Choose Chicago will be getting such a dynamic leader,” he added.

Both Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Illinois Governor JB Pritzker remarked on Osmond’s move from CAC to Choose Chicago in a press announcement released by the Mayor’s Office.

“Lynn Osmond’s thorough experience leading the Chicago Architecture Center will be a great asset to Choose Chicago—and we’re proud she is the first woman to take on the job,” commented Lightfoot. “As the city continues to see a rise in tourism, Osmond’s intimate knowledge of this city will ensure that we will continue to safely encourage and delight those who come to Chicago for work or play.”

Per her official bio, Osmond, a native of Ontario, is the Immediate Past President of International Women’s Forum Chicago, Chair of the Association of Architecture Organizations, and on the board of the Magnificent Mile Association. She was appointed a commissioner on the Commission on Chicago Landmarks by the mayor and is a member of the Commercial Club, the Chicago Network, and the Economic Club of Chicago, among others. Osmond has received numerous awards and accolades during her time at CAC and in 2005 became an Honorary Member of the American Institute of Architects.

AN will publish a more comprehensive look at Osmond’s time with CAC in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, current exhibits on view at CAC’s riverfront home include Housing for a Changing Nation, From Me to We: Imaging the City of 2050, and the free pop-up Thompson Center Ideas Competition exhibit in the center’s lobby. Energy Revolution opens on April 9. And, as always, the center’s Chicago City Model Experience, which first debuted in 2009, remains a top draw for tourists and Chicagoans alike.