It is worth joining the Committee of an Art Society?

I've been on the committee for the Newquay society of Artists for 5 years now as Publicity Officer. I've enjoyed it. I've been able to network with other artists, both local artists and art demonstrators. I've enjoyed building a bit of a Facebook community and leant a lot about societies; organising demos, exhibitions and general behind the scenes stuff; the pretty and not so pretty!

Last night was not so pretty. It was a tough AGM. Four of us have been on the committee for many years, and with the concept of a two year rolling committee out of the window a long time ago (not helped by covid) we all felt a little tired and that we needed to try back on track with some new members and fresh ideas. Easier said than done!

Since the beginning of this year we spent time asking people to step up and join the committee during the demos, we sent emails, described the roles on our website and put shoutouts on facebook.

We heard nothing back. Not one person put their hand up to help. We understand that everyone has commitments, we do too. Therefore we had a committee meeting ahead of the AGM in order to brainstorm solutions. Ultimately one of the fairest solutions we could come up with was to cut down the work for the existing committee. This took the pressure off us as members while ensuring the society stays alive. Personally I felt this was a compromise I could live with and stay on for another year. We put it to a vote and other members agreed.

Ahead of the AGM we sent out an email explaining the proposal. We received a couple of opinions about things we could do (all good ideas) but all involved doing more not less. But without people stepping up this wasn't quite the feedback we were looking for. We would love to do more, but we need people to help with that.

During the AGM we pretty much had the same conversation, it got pretty heated at times; ultimately people were happy to 'help’ but only in general terms. Without people willing to be accountable and take on roles, the offers of help aren't enough. The buck will always stop with the committee members.

A couple of months ago someone offered to do the photos and write up a demo. They didn't turn up to the demo and didn't let me know (now I know there would have been a very good reason for this) but it shows how sharing a role can easily fall down. It was fortunate I went and did my usual stuff; the buck stops with me.

Would it have been the end of the world if I hadn't gone and we didn't have a write up and photos of one demo? No, of course not. But I would have been annoyed and disappointed. I take pride in what I do and people now know me as the Publicity Officer for the society. So it's about how it reflects on me and in turn my art business. That's important to me as I build up my network. I want to either do a good job or hand it over, and that's just the type of person I am.

However the wider issue still stands. People want a society, they want value for money, but many aren't willing to support that in a meaningful way which requires accountability and taking responsibility for certain elements of running a society. Like with many things there is a lot more to it than you would first think and we are all volunteers. 

Groups everywhere I believe are having similar issues, many folded after covid, so I am pleased the society made it through, but it isn't easy!

But nights like last night are challenging. I hoped people would be grateful that we've compromised on a way to keep going but there were a few loud voices which told us otherwise. It's a shame, it's stressful, it's emotional and sometimes I wonder whether it's worth it.

I want to finish on a high not a low. I truly cherish the relationships I've built during my time at the society, I have no regrets about joining the committee. I've learnt a lot, I'm building an art network and despite the troubles that, let's be honest, all groups and societies have, I am very grateful to be part of the Newquay Society of Artists.

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