Chairman's notes on HVA AGM 2014

The AGM for 2014 had a wonderful venue at Sharon Struckman’s PS Arts gallery in Datchworth. It made not only an excellent meeting room, but also gave us space to chat and take some refreshments – and to look at some interesting work. And we also were able to listen to three of Sharon’s exhibitors talking about their work: Linda Lipinsky, Laura Dunmow and Jenny Leslie.

This all made for a very social evening with some useful networking as well as the AGM.

Herts Visual Arts lost just under £2k in 2013, which reduced reserves to £15k, and the projection for this year is nearly £4k loss. In the light of this the Organising Group (OG) recommended an increase in membership to £40 (£35 for existing members paying promptly) for 2015, and an Open Studios fee of £99. This would at current levels reduce the loss to around £2k. However, we need to focus on how we can turn this into a positive to improve reserves and to keep fees down in the future.

The current Organising Group were elected for another year – there had been no prior applications to be elected to the OG and there were none at the meeting. The Chair confirmed the need for more volunteers for the OG and invited applications and for referrals to anyone who might consider joining the OG.

There was concern for those who wanted but could not afford to go into Open Studios, but faced with no funding and the need to at least break-even, there was no immediate solution to this.

There was also discussion of the need to build up some funds to enable the website to be made more usable on mobile devices, which was important for the future – although as a one-off project there may be some grant-funding for which we could apply to help with this.

There was also a discussion on local ‘trails’ within Open Studios, which HVA is happy to support as long as the branding is used correctly and that any publicity material produced is of a quality that conforms with HVA’s overall image. Such local material could be supported with local sponsors, and might be able to access funds that HVA could not – county councillors had budgets for local use so, although the county-wide organisation can no longer access grants from the county council, local groups may be able to get support from local councillors.

Linda Warminger, our professional organiser, announced her intention to cease to undertake Open Studios work after Open Studios 2015 – which will be its 25th anniversary. Linda will continue to provide input outside Open Studios. One of the main ways we could reduce cost is to use more volunteer time and less paid time. We would seek during the next year to see how this might be done – possibly using part-paid volunteers from the membership.

It was agreed to set up an open meeting involving the Organising Group and interested members to discuss the future development of Herts Visual Arts, and the date for this has now been set for 31 July 2014 at the University of Hertfordshire, College Lane Campus, Hatfield, Hertfordshire,AL10 9AB.  If you wish to come along, please sign up on the website.

Finally, the Chair thanked Chris Green who has retired from the Organising Group and the role of Vice Chair for all his many years of voluntary input. In addition, the Chair reported the death of Tessa Barnes, a long-term member of HVA who has put in much good work for the OG over the years. Her Open Studios were remembered as welcoming and a great advert for the project: not just art on display but a genuine studio visit with the opportunity not just to watch Tessa at work but, if you wanted, to have a go yourself – the essence of the Spirit of Open Studios. She will be sorely missed.

One post AGM item I must mention: I called in at Childwickbury Arts Fair on Sunday 6th July and wanted to say a special note of thanks to Justine Lois Thorpe who, as well as promoting her excellent paintings, was doing a great job at promoting Open Studios and was getting a lot of brochures into the hands of people interested in art. All members can help promote our artists by including the Open Studios brochures in their exhibitions, or just passing on the word to friends, family and acquaintances.