In an effort to expand its presence in Maine, the Union of Maine Visual Artists (UMVA) is remaking itself and has added six remarkable new members to the Board of Directors.
With UMVA approaching its fiftieth anniversary in 2024, the emergence of a dynamic new Midcoast chapter, and the influx of new members with fresh ideas, last fall seemed like a good time to remake and reenergize the organization.
Board member David Estey, a painter and former public affairs manager, and new Board member Joanne Tarlin, a painter with valuable corporate experience, took the lead. They reviewed the decades-old UMVA bylaws, mission statement, current structure and procedures, membership prospects, successful outreach projects like the Maine Arts Journal (MAJ), ARRT!, LumenARRT!, Maine Masters film series, and the website. They also analyzed dozens of suggestions from the Board and other members, plus the results of an opinion survey Tarlin developed and sent to all members, with the help of member Mildred Bachrach.
The next step was development of a day-long Board retreat in March to review the survey results; assess the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats facing the organization; consider nine major new initiatives and fifteen detailed action plans Estey developed to accomplish them; and make personal commitments to the necessary changes. The Board made those commitments and has begun the process of carrying them out.
The survey results reinforced UMVA strengths and weaknesses. The fifty-eight members (20 percent) who responded mostly joined UMVA to meet other artists, have exhibit opportunities, make local connections, and create solidarity. They were generally very pleased with their membership but suggested a number of improvements, including: development of a timely newsletter, regional salon gatherings, and upgrading the website with a calendar of events and opportunities, a sales function, resource links, and connections to point persons and other members by project or region. Most respondents did not favor raising membership dues but would support submission fees for special exhibits, while keeping some exhibits free to members. More complete survey results are in a separate article.
The nine major areas for improvement adopted at the Board retreat were:
Communications: with members, the media, and the general public;
- Website Improvement: clean-up, functionality, potentially a virtual store/exhibits;
- Exhibitions: plans for existing Portland gallery, alternative space(s), pop-up exhibits;
- Regional Chapters: clarifying expectations, procedures, relationships, and structure;
- Fundraising: donations, grants, membership fees, and other revenue opportunities;
- Outreach: to the members and partnership with arts and community organizations;
- Advisory Board: of business, cultural, educational, media, legal, and political experts;
- Executive Director Search: defining, funding, and recruiting a full-time, paid manager;
- Strategic Planning: setting five-year goals, objectives, actions, and measurements.
Already the Board has taken many meaningful steps toward the goals:
Updated the corporate bylaws to allow more Board members, set renewable three-year terms for directors and officers, and encouraged the development of regional chapters.
- Revised and simplified the mission statement: “The Union of Maine Visual Artists is a nonprofit organization that promotes and advocates for the visual arts, artists, and all art supporters.”
- Developed a comprehensive five-year strategic management plan.
- Recruited six new Board members. (Replacements for departing treasurer, Jackie Bennett, and webmaster Greg Burns are still needed.)
- Resolved a concern about chapter liability and tax-exempt status with pro bono legal advice, and developed clear guidelines for chapter structure and procedures.
- Reached a formal memo of understanding with the Portland Media Center for improved management of the UMVA Gallery in rental space there.
- Continued a UMVA blog and launched three issues of an interactive monthly newsletter to members, with useful tips, links, and UMVA progress reports.
- Developed guidelines for submitting articles and reports to the MAJ.
- Explored placement next January of a PR intern from the University of Southern Maine to help out, for academic credit, at the UMVA Gallery in Portland.
- Developed UMVA postcards and brochures that were handed out at Pen Bay Chamber of Commerce and Artists & Makers conferences.
- Secured an annual donation of $5,000 for publication of the MAJ, if we can find more donors.