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"Celestial Thoughts" - fabric 72" x 43" - Cindy Walter


The Challenges and Lessons from Coordinating the Submissions for a Group Show
- A Process of Evolution
October 2007
By Cindy Walter
Leominster, MA.


I am generally not a joiner. As a kid my parents made us join certain activities that were "good for us" or good for them by getting us out of their hair for a while. I was a Brownie, a Girl Scout, a Boy Scout (yes, it's true), a Rainbow Girl, in the Church choir (even though I can barely carry a tune in a bucket) etc…

Once I escaped from home and went off to college at 17 I stopped joining everything. I didn't even join my dorm mates for a night out. In general, I avoided other people and especially if it was going to be for a group activity.

When my son reached school age I realized I had to start joining again. My life came full circle - cub scouts, church, soccer etc…. The connections were different and important to both of us. We built a network of likeminded people who shared ideas on raising children, traded off watching each others kids and created a village to raise our children.

When he went off to college the joining stopped again. My son was grown and off at college, I had a job that kept me busy and life assumed a new pace and focus. Once I realized that I was looking at the rest of my life filled with work and getting ready for work, I started to ask myself what I wanted to do to find my joy. As it happened I wandered into art - at first I didn't realize it was art, I thought it was a way to pass my time while looking for the "rest of my life".

Little did I know that a sleeping giant lay within and art would be "the rest of my life" or at least the next great adventure in my journey. Then I started to meet other people who were already living in that world. They suggested groups I could join who would support my new "habit". Here I was, the great nonjoiner, joining again of my own free will.

I joined a quilting guild and spent the first 3 years sitting in the back of the room, not speaking to anyone, not showing my work and not volunteering to help with anything. Early in the fourth year I was trying to decide if I should stay or go and I was leaning toward go - someone reached out to me and made a connection. Now I was stuck, how could I leave when someone was being so "nice" - ughh!

I believe in the saying that there are no coincidences. She worked pretty hard at building the connection in spite of my reluctance. Thanks to her I have found a niche in the group and now have started meeting with a number of like minded women who are willing to share their success, joy, techniques and laughter. Oh and we all get to make mistakes too!

I had a similar experience with the Women's Art Caucus. A good friend suggested I join. Initially I was a barely there attendee. Slowly I have been coaxed into active membership. I get so much more than I can ever give to the group. I have been able to gain confidence in my art and have opportunities to show my work in public settings. I am learning to listen to the comments and reactions of others to understand how my art does or does not connect to them. Even though not everyone enjoys my art - I do and that is what is important.

That brings me to signing up to share the work of a successful art show. Last fall I worked closely with CM Judge to coordinate the submission process for the FATV show. What an eye opening experience. This year I am coordinating the submissions solo - hoping I learned what it takes to do it "right". I am also helping to coordinate the overall activities for the show. I say coordinate because I cannot do it all - nor should any one person have too much influence or responsibility for a group show.

Here is what I have learned from the two experiences so far:

  1. In a group show, there is enough work for everyone who is in the organization or the show to pitch in and help - the result will be a better show, and less stress for any one individual.
  2. I tend to crave organization and adherence to deadlines (between the lines is the word control, I am sure you hear its echo). This is especially true when there is concrete work that needs to be done and a limited amount of time to get it done - which is true for most things in life.
  3. I always think my instructions are clear - (until I read back what I have sent out to others. Then I really wonder what I am asking for.) It is good to have a couple of different ways to ask the same question.
  4. Repetition is a key to success. If you ask for volunteers once or twice and no one responds - ask again, and again, and again…
  5. Some tasks are suited for a limited number of volunteers - hanging a show - others are suited for everyone to join in - making food for the opening reception.
  6. You cannot over communicate.
  7. Not everyone can or will choose to follow instructions. When they don't you have to let them deal with the results.
  8. Sometimes I make mistakes - misspellings, typos, forgetting a special request… I hope I can give grace in these situations and hope to get some back.
  9. Some of us are just beginning to gain confidence in showing our work publicly, others overcame that hurdle long ago or never had to face it. Wherever I am it is all right and other members of the group will help me to move forward. I can do the same for others.
  10. We all want to know that our art is appreciated.

As I am working on coordinating the show sending emails back and forth asking questions and trying to clarify information my patience is sometimes tested. I am grateful that you are all willing to hang in and help me to learn. At the end of the day, here are all the things I am grateful for:

  1. That someone was kind enough to invite me into the group.
  2. That I get to spend time with gifted women whose goal is to support each other.
  3. That I know there is enough support, admiration, respect, and joy for all of our work and for each of us to be successful in our own way.
  4. That there are so many individuals who give of their time so that the group will continue.
  5. That I have the opportunity to show my work.
  6. That my contributions make a difference.
  7. That I can learn about what makes a successful show.
  8. That I can learn about what it takes to put a show together - and take it apart.
  9. That art is joy and there is joy in art for me.
  10. That there are venues out there for all of our work and that we change the world in our own small way through our art.

My thanks to all of you - my teachers.


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