Well, after a four year hiatus from the BSA presidency, I’m ba-a-a-c-k (thunder, lightning, heavy rain, ominous music).
I’d hoped that my successors from my previous tenure would inspire such large numbers to serve that I’d never be needed to do this job again: members would trip all over themselves to fill this organization’s highest office. But, in addition to the perceived workload, burnout plagues every group: some volunteers can handle it longer than others; some do such intense work over a short term that the burnout rate is faster; and for still others, life just gets in the way.
Whatever the reason, the Buffalo Society of Artists, coming into its 125th year in 2016, welcomes, and deeply appreciates, all the help it can get, whenever, for whatever duration. It is a great testament to the work of the, by now, thousands of Board members over all these decades that we have survived this long.
This should not be taken for granted. Twelve years ago, when I was first accepted into the BSA, then president
Lynn Northrup told me that it was all a hair’s width from going under for want of any meaningful participation by the membership on the Board. It was, essentially, all she, and the existing Board members, could do to just keep the BSA going—namely, do the basics of two exhibitions a year, plus new artist jurying. It was hard to field volunteers for committees, much less do anything much more ambitious.
Too, some of us might remember, acceptance to the BSA was by a unanimous vote of the Board. This went on until one of our Board members actually read the By-Laws, which stated that acceptance was to be determined by a majority of the Board members. That allowed us to take in a few more artists per year without feeling guilty.
Then, under Gary Wolfe’s first foray as president, we changed our membership rules once again by creating an Associate membership, with rules which would enable those rejected from Exhibiting Member status to bypass Board jurying by getting accepted into any three juried BSA exhibitions in a five year period. This brought on a few grumbles from some of our more, ahem, tradition-minded members, but the way I see it, the benefits have outweighed the risks. For one thing, we have fresh blood; in many cases, young blood, which means we have more volunteers. For another, our treasury, while not overflowing, is more stable than it was, say, in 2008, when we spent $10,000 to redesign and upgrade our website. And opening up our membership might be viewed as penance for some rather egregious rejections we made in the past for which some excellent artists will never forgive us.
Those who have expressed dismay over our more relaxed membership requirements need to take a chill-pill. We have not, and will never, see weeping kitty or Thomas Kincaid knockoff paintings at our shows. Our firewalls against allowing bad or mediocre art into shows are still good.
Which brings us here: this year, for the first time, our Board membership is going to expand from twelve to sixteen. More moving parts to manage us and divide the workload as we move forward. I have agreed to serve for my third (nonconsecutive) year because there was no one else available or willing to step into the presidency this year. Indeed, there is much work to do to prepare for our 125th extravaganza, I’ve got some spare time on my hands, and there was some unfinished business left over from my previous tenure that I would like to wrap up, including:
One: Upgrade and tidy-up Constitution and By-Laws. The 2006 version has holes and major flaws all over it.
Two: Get the all-important Video Archive Project on a more stable and enduring financial footing. We are going to explore the possibility of creating a separate, non-profit arm of the Buffalo Society of Artists, one which can raise tax-deductible funding and apply for grants.
Three: Strengthen and expand the educational component of our mission. Details are sketchy here, but there seems to be a deal in the works which might catapult the BSA into a somewhat different realm of relevance. I don’t want to spoil anything, so let me just say exciting times may be in the offing. Stay tuned.
Four: Raise more money for the BSA’s disposal. We don’t want to have to cheap-out on anything for the upcoming 125th.
Finally, I want to thank my immediate predecessor, Richard Christian; the several ex-presidents (Gary Wolfe, Beth Pedersen, Rita Argen Auerbach); the Trustees; and the former, currently sitting, and soon-to-serve Board members; and all of the fantastic non-Board volunteers for making this organization run so well.
Numerous members jokingly comment that I must be crazy, doing a third year—especially since my first year’s presidency (in 2009) was, ahem, contentious; but you know what? As bad as that was at times, it was also exciting. We got major things done.
It was worth it.
I look forward to the challenge of 2015. And if things get tough, there’s plenty of medication available.
Sincerely, George Grace