As an artist, I retreat for long hours alone in my studio because I need that solitude to create my paintings. But after a day or two of painting, I'm ready to meet up with my trusted artist friends for a bit of show and tell! I am a member of FOUR critique groups--all different, all essential to my growth as an artist---and I benefit greatly from receiving (and giving to others) comments about the work. We're often too close to our own artwork, so getting suggestions from other artists can improve one's work immeasurably.
But an artist's life is not JUST about painting, critiquing, or even getting into juried competitions. Sometimes we have to step out of our carefully crafted life and give back to our art community--even when it takes time away from our art-making.
In summer of 2016, I got a call from the International Society of Experimental Art (ISEA) President Patti Sevensma. I am a Signature Member of ISEA, although I'd never attended a symposium (mostly held on the east coast each fall). Patti noticed that of the 400+ ISEA members, fully 40 were from Oregon. As such, she wondered if I'd be willing to host ISEA's 27th annual symposium Sept 21-27, 2018 in Oregon. I've led other local conventions (and swore to never do it again) but she won me over and I agreed to be the symposium chair. We located a great venue (Runyan Gallery in Newport, Oregon), a stellar juror, Ruth Armitage, and secured a nearby hotel (Hallmark Resort) for the reception and banquet. So far, so good.
Fast forward to 2018 when the nuts and bolts of this project went into overdrive and the real work began. Living 2.5 hours from Newport meant I couldn't just pop into town whenever I needed to, so I enlisted the aid of a Newport artist, Cynthia Jacobi, whom I knew from my statewide art organization, WSO. She was my boots on the ground gal, and she put me in touch with local contacts who could steer me in the right direction. Cynthia even agreed to temporarily store the 50+ shipped paintings in her garage until we could transport them to the gallery on hanging day. We soon realized we'd need to hire a man with a truck to transport those HUGE boxes because they were too large for our vehicles! It was all a huge learning experience, and I admit to be overwhelmed at times.
On a particularly exhausting day this summer, an art friend (who has done her fair share of volunteering in many, many art groups) gave me some good advice: "I have always felt that everything I have given as a volunteer, I have received back in friendships, networking and opportunities."
Was chairing this exhibit/symposium a lot of work? Yes, indeed---no question about it. But I found a way to fit it into my busy life, and still manage to paint, ship accepted paintings to shows, attend critique group meetings, and generally keep my head above water. In the end, I'm proud that I was instrumental in bringing a prestigious, one-of-a-kind mixed media show to Oregon, where it will be viewed and enjoyed by artists and visitors throughout the state. It will truly be an exhibit to remember.
For more information about ISEA, visit their website: https://www.iseaartexhibit.org/