Friday, November 19, 2010

New England Wax - A New Beginning?

New England Wax is undergoing a big change. Will it survive the resignation of its Chair, Co-Chair and Advisory Panel? Only time will tell. Here's the story from my perspective.

I've been a member of NEW for three or four years, and after I organized NEW's side of The Diptych Project, I became the Co-Chair to Kim Bernard's Chair and also managed the group's website. From its beginning, the group was loosely organized as a way for New England artists interested in painting with encaustic to get together, share ideas and network. NEW members had eight or nine juried exhibitions together, and we also published two catalogs of shows. After a while the group grew to a size that required a lot of work to manage. Rather than cutting off membership at a certain number, we decided last year to begin requiring a little more stringent application process for membership. Kim and I also invited five members to form an Advisory Panel to assist us with decisions and give their input on various aspects of group management.

NEW members at the opening of The Diptych Project, Whitney Art Works, Portland, Maine, April 2008

This fall the seven of us (Kim, me, Lynette Haggard, Misa Galazzi, Kathleen "Scout" Austin, Sue Katz, Greg Wright) began lengthy discussions about the future of NEW. The pressure of increasing applications for membership had started to make itself felt, and we also thought that the group needed to be given more structure by instituting by-laws, officers, perhaps a jurying process for membership, etc. Also, despite our intention to involve more people in volunteering to perform various group tasks, this did not happen due to lack of volunteers, lack of delegation, lack of insistence on task sharing, or a combination of all of the above. A very few people were doing all the work of maintaining the group and becoming burned out.

NEW meeting at Mass. College of Art, November 2009

Members at Mass. College of Art meeting

As the discussions went on, we decided that we, as individuals, did not want to be involved in the restructuring.because we thought it would take too much time and involve some lengthy discussions in which we did not want to be involved. Also, we were all working on our art careers, having some success moving things forward, and thought that doing the heavy lifting for NEW would distract us from our individual work. We also thought about what the group might become after going through such a reorganization, and we decided that it did not fit the description of what we each wanted from a group.

Binnie Birstein, Dawna Bemis, Joanne Mattera, Misa Galazzi at NEW's show at Fairfield Arts Council, April 2010

As a result of our discussions, Kim and I and the Advisory Panel have all decided to resign from group management of New England Wax. This Saturday, NEW will have a meeting to decide whether it will continue in some new form or dissolve.

I am writing this post to let the encaustic community know what is happening because New England Wax was the first encaustic group to be formed after International Encaustic Artists (originally West Coast Encaustic Artists) and is well-known by many people. NEW was formed at the suggestion of Joanne Mattera and got its start because of networking through the encaustic conference. Before any other announcements are made or rumors are circulated about the evolution or devolution of New England Wax, I wanted to let people in on what brought us to our decision, and also to say that New England Wax has been one of the best things to have happened to me personally. It has enabled me not only to form strong bonds with many other artists in and outside New England but to further my work in encaustic more quickly and more deeply than I would have imagined. Between NEW and the encaustic conferences, I have been able to build a foundation of knowledge and expertise that has let me find my own way in using this wonderful medium.

Kim Bernard at the opening of her show at the encaustic conference 2009

I am very grateful to Kim Bernard for starting New England Wax and for being the competent, inspiring and diplomatic leader that she has always been. She has been a role model for us all. Thanks go also to Lynette Haggard for maintaining our Yahoo site, to Sue Katz for designing cards and other materials - including the NEW logo - for us, to Scout, Misa and Greg for their support and advice in the Advisory Panel and to all the other unsung members who have contributed to the success of New England Wax. 


Anonymous said...

Well said, Nancy! it's a terrific group and I hope the energy keeps up the momentum.

Terry Jarrard-Dimond said...

Thank you for sharing your experience with NEW. I am not associated with this group but I have had positions with groups such as this and it is a tremendous responsibility. Hopefully, new members will step up to take leadership roles and the groups evolution will continue. You and the other founding members of NEW have given the group a great start.

Eileen P. Goldenberg said...

Good for you for choosing to pursue your own career. As former President of IEA I know the amount of time it takes to run an organization. If we could work out a way to PAY ourselves so we can have it as a job instead of taking away from our careers. Artist organizations are terrific until the few people who end up doing all the work get burned out and quit...I have made friends, connections and had loads of fun, and we have to focus on our art. Good fro you for choosing you!!

Binnie said...

It couldn't have been said any better! you are a dynamo and it will be great to see your energy at full speed ahead on YOUR art career. Without NEW and the conference, I would never have met you or all the other artists. A true labor of love.

Unknown said...

I’m jealous, I can’t think of a single organization in my region that has attracted such strong interest as you describe with NEW. Clearly the founding members, with their expertise, passion for the subject and attention to quality, created an organization that attracted both the established and the novice and become a highly desirable venue on the subject of encaustic. I commend you all for doing such a great job, one that now appears to be the tail wagging the dog—so-to-speak. I am an outsider looking in at NEW, but with my experience as a member and serving on boards of art/artist organizations, it appears this is something worth saving and revamping. From first-hand experience I understand all the points you give on leaving the group, and I would be one of the first to suggest that artists must save themselves from being consumed by such operational activities. Since the momentum is still potent with NEW, it is an opportunity that might interest a college or university to serve as a home-base for the organization. Often, funding to support professional organizations such as NEW, can be supplemented by the college/univ, also allowing for office space/networking capabilities, technology, etc. Involved faculty serving with such groups gain credit for their promotional files, and grad students perform research for the group that gains them academic credit while serving the needs of the group. I direct the art internships at my school and this is exactly the type of direct experience that can serve students and the group or organization.
Just a thought.

Nancy Natale said...

Lynette, Terry, Eileen and Binnie - thanks so much for your comments. It's hard to step away from such a great group, but sometimes a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do. NEW has been a tremendous help to me and I have formed some great friendships.

Jane, that's a very interesting idea that you present. I relayed your comment to Kim to share at the meeting tomorrow. I hope something comes of it.

Milisa Galazzi said...

Thanks, Nancy, for such a lovely post about NEW and for giving a blog shout-out to others in the group who did some of the heavy lifting, and truly...HUGE kudos to Kim, YOU, and Lynette for the majority of that hard work! I am eager for the group to flourish and I share your sentiment that it was/is one of the best things to date to have happened to and for, my art career. May she live long and prosper!

Milisa Galazzi said...

By mistake, I omitted Sue Katz's name in my last comment. My sincere apologies to Sue, who was also a huge contributor to NEW over these first years. Kim, Nancy, Lynette, and SUE: we "waxer's in New England" all owe you FOUR a truck load size of gratitude for your hard work in getting NEW to this place! On behalf of the Advisory Panel and the membership at large: CONGRATULATIONS on a job well done. I hope that the four of you are proud of your significant contribution to art and to excellence in the North East. You have raised the bar high and for that we are all grateful!