With the 2013 year drawing to a close, I feel a great pride and satisfaction in presiding over an organization that has accomplished and continues to accomplish so much, given our diverse membership and volunteer composition, along with a desire to continue to develop and offer more to our membership and the greater Buffalo arts community beyond. Instrumental to this has been the Board that I have been lucky enough to have worked with this past year. I thank all of our Directors, but wish to give special attention to the four members who have just gone off of the Board: Richard Tomasello, Norine Spurling, Catherine Tillou and Paula Sciuk. The dedicated volunteer work that they have accomplished for this organization over their time on this Board, and even before, has been incredible and I am so grateful to them for all that they have done, and I know will continue to do. I would also like to thank the Board Members who have stayed on in its current incarnation and would like to welcome new Directors John Gerovac and Steve Siegel, along with returning Directors Patti Harris and Gary Wolfe. My gratitude for the four of them to give so generously of their time is also difficult to properly express.
The success of our two recent juried shows: the Catalogue Exhibition and the Fontana Frank Lloyd Wright Boathouse benefit auction, and our jurying-in of nine new Exhibiting Members, makes me mindful of the ways in which we accept new members into our fold and the avenues through us that their work is presented to the public.
We are sometimes, unfairly I feel, tagged as being an exclusive club (given the jurying requirement for Exhibiting Member status) with often a special animus reserved for the “S” in BSA as too patrician a moniker. Some feel that our jurying requirement is too deflating and patronizing to many talented artists who have not as of yet become Exhibiting Members and discourages good artists from continuing on with us because of the aforementioned perceptions. This last part is sadly often true, though I would take exception with the former assumptions of exclusivity.
It should be mentioned here that I did not “get in” as an Exhibiting Member the first time I applied. I was declined. My initial reaction was not empathetic to jurors making what was, hopefully a difficult decision, nor was I magnanimous in defeat. My reaction was something like “Nuts to you!” though far less polite and nowhere near as flowery. The point of mentioning this is not to say that I somehow made it when I was finally accepted the next time I applied years later after much licking of wounds and personal development as an artist. I am still trying to make it and doubtless always will. That is in the nature of being an artist. At least that is what I tell myself. THIS is where I feel that we, as an organization, as a society of artists, fit in to the larger tapestry in this region. That we do stand on a great deal of history (125 years worth) has all of the advantages and disadvantages to be expected in so well patinated an organization. What might first seem a vestigial tradition of self- selection within a monolithic society has in fact proven to me to be one of the most authentically soul searching, thoughtful and deliberate processes that I have ever been proud to take part in. While not everyone gets in the first time (to which I can personally attest), it is always with the intent to look for merit regardless of style, medium, content (or lack thereof), social status or political considerations. This is also true through an acknowledgement that any Board is most certainly not infallible, and that Associate Members can move to Exhibiting Member status through acceptance to three juried shows within a period of five years, including juried Spring Shows to which Associate Members can apply. We are also considering bringing in outside jurors to consider new members, along with perhaps voting in panels of jurors (who would be on a slate with other candidates on the yearly ballot) as was done in the past.
Whether through Jurors looking to organize shows in a curated fashion or those who are selecting each work based on the inherent merits of each work rather than as part of a collective appreciation, the varied backgrounds and tastes of these Jurors have come together to show a consistency in selecting artists from a very diverse spectrum of styles and media, which is of course very true to our composition and mission statement as an organization. In this, we consistently provide a quality community for all of our membership, presenting a uniquely fair and even playing field for all to develop and present their work independent of group mandated, fashionable thematic and media based strictures. We are, in this as well, very democratic in the options and possibilities for all of our dues paying members to show their work regularly. We are also hoping to offer more opportunities for us to just simply get together for the sole purpose of just enjoying each other’s company and getting to know each other better separate from the formality of the gallery or museum setting.
I have had the pleasure of answering questions from many of you both over the phone and in person this past year, and in so doing have been able to not only make those invaluable acquaintances but also to hear and hopefully address many of your concerns. I hope that this will continue throughout next year as we move ever forward in continuing to provide all that we can for all of our membership, always respectful of the different approaches and sensibilities thankfully found in our Society.
Richard W. Christian II