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Why I Left The Flagler County Art League: It’s like IBM vs. Apple

| November 24, 2010

Baseboards and track lighting were among the issues the art league's ex-president was trying to address at the flagler county art league's new location at City Market Place. (© FlaglerLive)

Baseboards and track lighting were among the issues the art league's ex-president was trying to address at the league's new location at City Market Place. (© FlaglerLive)

Weldon Ryan was the Flagler County Art League president from July to mid-November, when he resigned over differences in philosophies. He explains his decision.

I am disappointed at some of my ex-colleagues’ assertion that my financial understanding was limited and that we couldn’t provide the needed changes necessary to move the Flagler County Art League forward because of our limited cash flow.  I found that the art league avoided the limelight and seemed to put itself behind the curtain and not take center stage to perform their duty as an ambassador for the arts and artists in the county.  This mentality had to go. Unfortunately, so did I.

Weldon Ryan (© FlaglerLive)

First off I negotiated the best deal we would’ve gotten with the developer of City Market Place. This was the best show place for my vision of the art league.  I thank him for seeing my vision.  He understood that we would bring much wanted attention and people to City Market Place.  The rent was $300 more than the previous location before CMP.  It was obvious to me that with the change of location we would make up for the increased cost in rent.  We had added even more potential with the possible use of the parking lot.  We could have New York style street fairs.  Plus, we had concessions from the developer.

The lease for our previous location was month to month, with less security than that with a lease that had a stipulated length of time.  It took a month and a half to convince the board to make this move despite the obvious.  Some of my critics seemed to have made it personal.   I gave them numbers explaining how we can increase revenue from improved art class participation, increased art show registrations, increased membership as well as to increase the potential for art sales.  During these negotiations we agreed that we would spend the required dollars to give the premise a professional look and feel.  My business experience with commercial rental space was that all improvements necessary for operations should be done before business operations begin so that there are no interruptions of the business later on.  These costs are generally at the expense of the renter.


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The developer aided us by doing some of the work.  It was my understanding that with the vote to move we would act on capital improvements of the new location by spending approximately $6,000.  I explained the floor plan and how it would facilitate two to three classrooms in the rear, as one of the art league’s core functions is education through classes. This plan would’ve accommodated and enabled us to have one formal gallery and one gallery which would host smaller shows, extend the formal gallery when necessary and host events like poetry readings etc.

This plan was thwarted.

One concern was space. I knew we had to reduce our furnishings and save space such as with banquettes to reduce clutter, provide some seating and keep the office area small.  My expectation was to have a flow of people on a constant basis to help us attract more potential members, making us more viable financially. We had a $27,000 CD that matured at the beginning of October which included interest earnings ($2,000).  It is in part a building fund.  Because of stipulations concerning the fund, $17,000 could not be spent.  We agreed that we would spend $6,000 for putting the space together once the CD matured.

Several improvements were necessary inside the new gallery space at City Market Place. The cost of the baseboard and paint was small.  The big ticket item was the track lighting. That cost was under $1,000. I also wanted five to 10 folding easels and five to 10 drawing folding table sets,  which included table, a lamp and a chair,  to transform the space  from a non- art environment. That transformation, I felt, would convey a more serious art learning environment than with folding table.

My benchmark to maintain stability with the classes was five students in each of 10 to 12 classes, with a class-size limit of 12. By making four class segments (including one afterschool segment to be implemented later, to further foster a younger generation of artists) we could work the classrooms creatively in the rear.  Tables are simply not conducive for art education.  The recurring knock on the art league from many has been that it’s for senior citizens. Plastic folding table convey Bingo Night.  We needed a new image.  Easels cost one hundred dollars each.  Stools would cost $45 dollars each and the table set was $149.

In just five months in my tenure as president we gained 30 new members and did what I predicted we would do with our classes.  The art shows are earning money and becoming more popular.  I also updated and improved the use of the internet, including implementing easier transactions with PayPal.  We are also now enrolled with affiliation programs on the internet.  This enabled us to earn money from purchases made through links on our site.  We’re very much in the green.  What I wanted is such a small amount of money.  We would actually be reinvesting a small amount from what was earned by the interest earnings and what was earned from classes, art shows and a workshop etc.  The concessions that I gained at the beginning from the developer also made this possible.

My accomplishments and demands were financially sound. But it became clear that with all my innovations that our philosophies where irreconcilably different.  It’s like IBM vs. Apple.   Staunch conservative Businessmen vs. Creative Young Men working out of their garage. Was the generation gap too wide? This, along with other issues of grave importance, undermined my authority further. With all of this doubt and friction directed at me, I had to re-examine my position.  I had put on hold a book I was writing (Portrait Drawing: The Forensic Artist Way).  I have some sculpture projects and paintings to complete as well.  I made finally the best choice as proven by reactions in response to what I’ve done.

The Flagler County Art League took 30 years to make the decision to become an actual entity as opposed to a club.  I can say that on the flip side I gave them 30 years of knowledge that, if they choose to continue where I left them, they can potentially thrive as a viable twenty-first century art league.

Weldon Ryan was a forensic artist with the New York City Police Department for many years before moving to Palm Coast. He can be reached at weldonry89@hotmail.com.

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7 Responses for “Why I Left The Flagler County Art League: It’s like IBM vs. Apple”

  1. K says:

    Other than the annual Art in the Park and the banners in town, I never heard anything about the Art League until a couple months ago. However I have recently seen advertising for the gallery and for the classes offered at the new location. I was hoping the group would finally take off and become what it should have been all along- something open to and of interest to everyone in our community.

    Mr. Ryan, it’s a shame the old guard didn’t let you further develop the organization. But you know how status quo can be with the rigid Palm Coast elders. Maybe you can share your talents with the younger community members. They will appreciate your talents and passion.

  2. True Art says:

    It was a nice try to bring the art league into the modern world of art, but obviously they have no desires for any ideas or art work outside of their narrow scope of work.

  3. BW says:

    “Was the generation gap too wide?” I think is a great question. Generational gaps are a huge challenge for companies and organizations today. There are huge mindset differences and the manner in which things are approached amongst generations. There can be a real hard stance amongst the older generation to resist change or anything new. Likewise, much of the innovation today is turning the way things are done ‘upside down’ and it’s tough to fully understand for many people. From what I read this is great example of all of this.

    The Art League is a great group to have and I hope to see them continue to improve their exposure and services.

  4. Richard Hamilton says:

    Well I wish I had some artistic talent myself, but i really admire those that do. However i also realize that artists can be MUCH more vocal partisans than politicians, even now in this polarized age. In 20 years here I have seen continued disputes between artists, photographers, musicians, theatres and all other artistic people. Your issues with the other members of the art league are not new in any way, so you should not take it personally. Competition is good, as long as we can know when to cooperate too.

    For the record I am President of the Flagler Auditorium Board. I am not a musician or artist, I just donate my time and support to help the Auditorium bring professional shows to the County, and support our School students in arts and technical education.

    I believe an active arts, musical and cultural program is essential to create a desirable community, in order to attract businesses and residents to Palm Coast. Unless of course we want to create an industrial wasteland, ( I won’t name names but maybe some places in NJ come to mind) which might create more jobs, but drive all of us away.

    So, please dont give up on this. lets continue to try to make everything work.

  5. W.Ryan says:

    I believe in the need for the Art League. I believe that their role is crucial in the progression of the Arts in this County. There are many Artists that depend on what the Art League can provide. I had to clear the air about what was said about me by certain FCAL Board Members to this point. They are all capable of managing based on their experiences. A friend commended to me on this article and stated that we must stop this incestuous management block of the FCAL Board. It’s the extras that impede the progress of what can be. It is imperative that we keep that wave of art appreciation and creation going. I will do what I can to help.

  6. S.A. says:

    Say, for all those of you who have been interested enough to read the articles and comments about the Art League, why not come up and visit? Right now we have a great show of more than 100 pieces of art in a variety of mediums. Our new City Market Place gallery is open Wednesdays through Saturdays from 10-4 p.m., and we will have an encore opening on Sat. Dec. 11 from 6-9 p.m., as we have extended the current show, “Sunday Afternoon with the Artists,” till Dec. 13. The opening will coincide with a likewise great encore opening of Artist of the Year at Hollingsworth, so come up, view our show and our new space, have a glass of wine and a nosh, chat with some of our great volunteers, and travel back and forth between our gallery and Hollingsworth to see a fine array of art. Who knows? You may even decide to join the Art League. We have a variety of classes for all skill levels, again, given by talented and dedicated volunteer instructors, We also offer workshops conducted by well known artists. For more info, visit http://www.flaglercountyartleague.com.

  7. Marlene Rollo says:

    Weldon is a great artist and a really nice person, father and more. Being President of an organization requiring a budget, organizational skills, people management skills (with more than 300 members to consider) and much more was extremely time-consuming – a full time job. Time and skills he did not have. His art and family was more important and rightly so. Too bad he couldn’t have just resigned and said “he wanted to spend more time with – and supporting – his family”. He had to trash the entire organization. Unfortunate.

    Marlene

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