March 2010 BSA Newsletter (PDF)
That Vision Thing
There’s been an interesting debate floating around within our ranks of late. It goes loosely like this: what should the BSA be? There is a faction, of indeterminate size, which says, look, the seminar, the Video Archive Project, the studio visits—all that’s fine, but unnecessary. Just give us our two exhibitions per year, plus Artpark, plus the annual dinner, and be done with it.
Indeed, if that were all that was required, our board meetings would be one hour, punch out, go home. On the other side--and I count myself as among the proponents - is the argument that with our long rich history, we have to be more! More than a self-congratulatory organization of artists - one which, within recent memory, was on the verge of disbanding for lack of energy, commitment, and vision. One which, to be frank, was wasting away for lack of relevance to the larger arts community. On these points, I will not kid you: if we let it go, it will go. Vibrant organizations can become moribund in the blink of an eye. All it takes is for the members not to care. Kind of like a hunky aging screen star putting on one hundred pounds, taking up the bottle, not combing his hair, and going on benders that get him arrested for a DWI (think Nick Nolte). It is a mindset that too often attends aging. The counterargument is that it doesn’t have to: all across America, we see elderly people, and organizations, reinventing themselves, and we love and admire them for it.
About four years ago, we began reinventing ourselves. We were getting young members (and many older ones) who seemed to demand it, and were willing to work towards it. They saw that this fine old arts group still had promise, a rich tradition, an outstanding membership—all we needed was to become relevant to something other than ourselves. And they have been working to make it so. From our participation in A Week Without Violence photography project to our Video Archive Project to our Where does the Art Go When the Artist is Gone seminar to our website to our studio visits program, we are putting ourselves out there. It is a dynamic present, but it is also our future.
On Saturday, April 17 at 10:00 am, we are going to hold our Spring Membership Meeting in the Board Room of the Burchfield-Penney. One of the items we will be discussing will be the Strategic Plan - the one that the membership endorsed three years ago. How are we doing? Are we on course? Have we met the wishes of our membership? Are these wishes still the same? It is vital that we get as many members as possible to come and weigh in. There is the sentiment that the Board should re-poll the membership to determine if you even care about all of this extra activity. If it is in fact the case that the majority of you do not, then we have to wonder, what the heck are we doing?
Conversely, if the majority of the membership feels that we are on course, then we need more people who will help carry the ball. In previous President’s Messages, I was happy to report that volunteerism was riding high - by my calculations almost twenty percent. While that was roughly correct, it ignored the fact that most volunteers did spot duty. And while this helps (because most of us have other lives), as with most organizations, there is a central core of people who devote an inordinate amount of time to doing the nuts-and-bolts work, many doing double-duty. In this, we risk burnout. I have to say, I couldn’t imagine a more dedicated and hardworking group of people than those who are serving on our Board of Directors and the group of A-team volunteers making sure that this Society serves its membership. I am proud and fortunate to be associated with them.
But we always need people, waiting in the wings, to step up; volunteers to come forth and give us a breather. Terms will be expiring; we will need leaders who will carry the flame.
It all goes to mission—what are we about? Why do we exist? How are we different from Hallwalls, Buffalo Arts Studio, the Western New York Artists Group,? These are some of the discussions we will need to have at our membership meeting.
Speaking of getting involved, you have a Mercedes of a website, sitting there, waiting to present you to the world. If you do not have an image—your image—on it, under your name, please put one in. It’s a little embarrassing to think that the casual visitor to our website, perusing our membership list, would find more blanks than artworks; fewer artists’ statements. It is hard to stake a claim that we are a professional arts association without much to present. To this end, the Board has set the goal of achieving a 90% ‘occupancy’ rate on our website by the end of the year. We are going to nag you to death until then, so be prepared. I want to remind you that if you don’t have a computer, or lack the tech savvy for uploading, there’s plenty of help. Simply ask.
Good news: as a slight departure from our usual, two juried exhibitions-plus-Artpark, this summer the Carnegie has graciously offered to host a special, non-juried, Buffalo Society of Artists Membership Exhibition. As the title implies, it will be open to all Associate and Exhibiting Members, every one of which will be guaranteed of spot to hang an artwork. The show will run for four weeks, from June 17 to July 17, 2010. Stay tuned for more details. Unlike other shows, this one should be simple: bring the work to the Carnegie on the given date; fill out the information, done. Oh—and pick it up when the show closes.
The Thumb Box Exhibition, at Partners-in-Art in North Tonawanda, running from March 6 to March 26, 2010, though one of our smallest shows in years in terms of quantity, does not lack for quality. The juror, John Massier, was highly selective, to say the least. I urge all members to check it out—and to read his statement to see his reasoning. It could provide a valuable insight into the process. I want to thank Paula Sciuk, the ad hoc chair of this show, and Erin Harris, who designed and produced our postcards and program, for their work.
The 114th Catalogue Exhibition, to be held at the Castellani, put us back on track, with over eighty entrants and 50 works selected.
Finally, this year, Artpark is going to be run by a committee headed by Board member Patti Harris. We hope to carry on in the manner established by last year’s director, Helen Russell, who set the bar high with the many programs that accompanied the exhibition venue. More news on this as it develops.