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.