Exit the rollercoaster

AS Mike Willison prepares to step down as Chairman next month, he rounds up the past two years with a view from inside HVAF...

I end an eventful two years as your Chairman this March and I would like to use my farewell column to offer some thoughts and thanks on the ups and downs of my term of office.

The success of HVAF depends not only on members feeling they are getting sufficient benefit from the Forum to justify paying the subscription – but also on the contribution from small groups of volunteer artists who give up part of their working time to organise events, exhibitions and talks for the rest of the 318 members.

First are the 15 volunteer artists in the Organising Group, (OG), who give their time to the overall planning of the Forum’s future developments. There are the 5 Art Group leaders, who organise exhibitions and meetings for their Group members, and then there are the 10 Area Coordinators who are critical to the smooth organisation of the Open Studios event.

I came to realise that we depend on a very small number of volunteers to keep the Forum functioning and this does seem a bit one sided - the few running the organization for the many - but on those rare occasions when we ask for extra help from our members, so little is forthcoming.

We partially solved this problem by recognising that HVAF had grown to a size where we needed a professional Coordinator/Project Manager. This resulted in the appointment of Linda Warminger who has proved to be a tower of strength to both myself and the entire organisation.

We have also recognised that members want more larger exhibitions and workshops in addition to the smaller, successful events organized by the 5 Art Groups. Our Events sub-committee is currently planning such an exhibition in June, during the St. Albans Festival.

Funding is an area where the majority of the members can help. I don’t need to remind you that increasing our external funding is the main way to avoid increases in subscriptions and fees, not just for 2010, but for subsequent years. If you know of a successful business in your area that may be prepared to become a sponsor in exchange for some benefits we can offer - or just to advertise in the OS brochure - please send details to Linda at this email address <openstudios@hvaf.org.uk> We are not asking you to seek funding – just to offer ideas. The type of potential sponsors could vary from larger businesses to good restaurants and pubs, to solicitors, estate agents, and successful retailers etc.

You don’t need me to tell you that being an artist can be a lonely task at times. I just wish I could have persuaded more of you to make use of the Art Groups for your specialty. If you are not already a member of an Art Group, do make a resolution for 2010 to make email contact to find out when next they meet. Take a break and go along and meet other artists, with similar interests and problems. It’s free!

The Web and Gallery developments have brought benefits to those members prepared to fully exploit them, and the development work continues. I can congratulate all those involved because the work was started before I joined, will continue after I leave, and needed very little input from myself.

The Electronic Newsletter is launched, thanks to a lot of hard work by everybody. We have started off with two monthly editions, but my hope is that you will all generate enough events and stories to justify it going monthly.

My grateful thanks to all those volunteers I mentioned earlier, whose enthusiasm and efforts have made my task worthwhile. I have enjoyed my time with HVAF, it was a privilege to help, and I wish it could have been longer.

Best wishes to you all for future success, prosperity and good health.

Mike Willison