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.
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.
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 [email protected].