Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Open Letter to LSAG Members

Dear LSAG Members:

My life philosophy is that it is better to encourage than discourage; better to uplift than to push down; better to inspire than to be a dream killer; better to try than to give up, or worse still not to have tried at all.  Many times in my life I've had to walk these things out...live them, not just talk about them.  So it has been that when I was blessed to serve as president this year that I approached the challenges we had with optimism and looked for how simple improvements could be made and membership benefits could be increased.  I wanted to build our members up and set them up to succeed.  Our website now resembles the vibrant organization we are.  Help pages on the website and the beginnings of what I hope will eventually be many featured artists have been added.  One other simple way I want to encourage and inspire is for us to acknowledge and honor those who contribute:  the volunteers, others who have made an impact in other artful ways--teachers, art philanthropists, and others who have contributed to the betterment of art and its promotion, and those who have created a life's work adding to the beauty of this world and the creative spirit.  We have advertised from the very beginning that we'd be adding some new forms of recognition, and this is what we've referred to. 

Volunteerism in many leagues is a challenge.  Perhaps your league has a regular rotation of leadership and is not relying on the same ones year to year to carry the organizational burden.  But some of our leagues have faced this challenge for some time.  I know of one member who graciously serves BOTH of the leagues in which she is a member in the same capacity.  Others have served for multiple years never taking a break from responsibility.  Without these members serving, things that everyone enjoys and relies upon like shows and demos would not otherwise happen.  Knowing this challenge was an issue, I took it upon becoming president that I'd try to find a way to encourage volunteerism.  As such, I mentioned we'd call for volunteers to be featured artists on the website.  I also mentioned at the very first meeting with officers that I'd like to honor those who serve this way at convention.  This was back in August.  I took time over the course of the year to ponder how to be as inclusive as possible while at the same time making it mean something of recognizable value.

When an NWAL member passed away suddenly earlier in the year, it made me think there should be some way to honor her and her achievements in art.  This led to thinking about others who have had a lifetime of artful contributions and still others who have had other art related achievements that could only inspire fellow artists.  Maybe they are teachers or perhaps serve in other more quiet ways; they might work in a philanthropy to bring healing through art or have some other art related achievement.  Our convention is about celebration, but we don't really talk about celebrating those who are not in the show.  Shouldn't we?  I think so.  There's more to LSAG than just the juried convention show.  Some members do not even participate in shows.  Do they not also deserve recognition for their contributions to the league or community?  It is about the inspiration we find in demo artists and in being together to celebrate art & the artist.   

At that same August meeting, 3rd VP Golda Rader (CAL) shared about another organization she is in & how they also have recognition opportunities for their members.  Recently, when asked to review the proposal, only 2 people shared that they didn't support the idea.  The majority agreed with the proposal saying that all looked great.  At the open spring meeting two Saturdays ago, those 2 along with 2 others ---all of whom are from the same 1 league--- voiced their opposition.  But I don't think the voices of one league should drown out the voices of 15 other leagues.  With that in mind, I ask for your opinion to be given whether you agree or disagree.  

Can we take a few minutes to honor those who serve, those who have achieved, and those who have contributed a lifetime of work?  Opposing views think it will be too expensive, take too much time, and will lead to hurt feelings.  I don't believe pennies to encourage are too much.  It won't be a prohibitive amount of time, and any time it takes to honor those who give countless hours of their own, I believe they are worth it.  Hurt feelings?  I think we are more mature than that, and we have built in a variety of ways to be added to the list including self nomination.  The burden is not on the leagues.  Choices do not have to be made between members; ALL can be acknowledged.

The spirit of LSAG, of having artists at a variety of levels competing at their own level, of welcoming students from elementary school to adults, and the warm bond of encouragement I know is not just unique to the clubs I am in--- these are rare finds in an art organization.  We may be used to it and take it for granted, but that does not mean it is typical elsewhere.  What do YOU say?  Do we honor others in our organization for their artful contribution or does this go too far or against what LSAG is about?  Agree or disagree, please share your voice to this conversation by May 16th by sending it to  lsagconnect@gmail.com.  Let's hear from ALL of our leagues.  I will respect the majority opinion.