A Year at Marin Arts 2010-2011

September 3, 2011

Almost exactly one year ago, on a Thursday in September, I put my work clothes on and went to volunteer for the Marin Arts Council, at their fairly new digs(they'd been there a year) at 906 Fourth Street in Downtown, San Rafael, California.  I was put to work immediately as the "gallery sitter", meeting and greeting folks off the street.  It was exciting for me, having been a frustrated and over-worked parent volunteer for too many years, I really wanted to get back to a job in the Arts that use my tech skills.  The gallery at Marin Arts was a huge space, right next to Crepevine, and it had a city vibe that was new to me after working from my quiet home in the suburbs.  I stood at the counter with my new iPad and jotted down all the colorful, busy things that went by on 4th Street one day while I was in the gallery:

YELLOW fire engine • PURPLE GREEN Fed ex truck • baby stroller • Man smoking • "So great to see you!"=two woman meeting for lunch • Baby with bright RED cast on leg • Two motorcycles • Two bikes • Music from cars • Indian Lunch buffet $8.95 • Girl with ice-cream... I was excited by the new input, to say the least.

At this time, the exhibit was art from "Teamworks".  Many people came in to see the show, and most of the work sold, as it was a fundraiser and 10 year retrospective of this group.  I wrote a blog post on this back in September 2010.

Within a month, I was creating the Marin Arts Council's weekly E-news in Constant Contact.  I totally embraced this volunteer job, and really loved filling the weekly news with information about local artists, events, links and graphics.  It was fun, and informative, and I could connect with artists and help them in a way similar to the work I'd already been doing for the "Art on the Farm" blog.  The hope was that this might eventually lead to a job in the Arts, and maybe even right there, at the Marin Arts Council.

In November, to my surprise, the Executive Director laid off the Director of Exhibits and Events, an amazing woman who had been with Marin Arts for twelve years.  It was a sad moment for me, as I'd believed I would get to learn from her and work by her side.  However, within a month, I was offered a job as the Director of Membership at Marin Arts.  I was thrilled to have the opportunity, but saddened by the loss of someone so respected and loved in the Marin Arts community.

I volunteered four full weeks in December, enjoying the works in the "Small Wonders" Holiday Show, two separate theatrical performance events, and a book talk by artist, Susan Hall.  I was finally announced as the Director of Membership in January of 2011.

During my year at Marin Arts, I assisted with graphics and advertising to promote the shows and events at Marin Arts.  I suggested and managed the installation of "Art on the Farm"( a group of artists currently managed by Larry Bryson) at the Marin County Civic Center, where a record of eight paintings were sold.  I advertised and promoted:

•   "Go Figure"  through Feb 26

 The "Go Figure" show, coinciding with February and Valentine's Day, was a fantastic representation of all forms of figurative art.  I enjoyed meeting multi-dimensional artists, such as Arin Wiscomb, and Laura Lengyel.  I had the pleasure of time in the gallery with Georgia Anwell and Lisa Robecheck.

•  "Nature's Palette" March and April 2011, with a Kid's Art Scavenger Hunt

 One of the great highlights of my job was conceptualizing and designing an "Art Scavenger Hunt" for kids to go alongside our "Nature's Palette" show. 
The scavenger hunt, with an ice cream "reward" at Double Rainbow, was a huge success, and brought in hundreds of kids and families to the Marin Arts Gallery in the Spring.  Read an article written in Larkspur Patch about a day at Marin Arts with the kids, by Marilyn LoRusso

I enjoyed meeting and working with all the artists in this exhibit that honored nature.  There was a book talk by Becky Foust and Lorna Stevens, and Judith Selby Lang and Richard Lang spoke about their art and travels in Africa.  I assisted Trish Carney, a photographer for National Geographic, who works closely with Wild Care in San Rafael.  I enjoyed speaking with her about her work as we installed her photographs during this show.

We also hosted "Poetry Out Loud", for which I designed an event program and assisted with the event.

•  "Marin Open Studios Group Show"

•  "2011 Annual Member Show" at the Civic Center

I designed and managed:

•  Marin Arts Summer Series of Artist Workshops
I contacted all the artists and planned a curriculum for the first series of Summer classes, by artist members.  It was a great effort, but in the end, we did not have the funds to advertise and promote this.  One of the instructors, Zach Gilmour, a printmaking teacher in Lagunitas, did very well and filled several classes.  There was great feedback on his classes from the students.

I taught a very broad and customizable computer class for artists:

"Computer for Artists"

I enjoyed working with a few artists who just needed some tips on working with their art on the computer.  It was enjoyable, and I would love to continue teaching this class from Art Works Downtown if we ever get to a point where this is possible.

I brainstormed and planned:

•  "Masters and Students Show" at the Civic Center (I grouped together the four teachers who would be featured in this show, and arranged for them to occupy the two galleries at MCC:

Unfortunately, I had to leave Marin Arts before it was finally installed in August 2011.  I look forward to getting over to see this show soon, as I have no idea how it turned out!  If you've been, let me know. : )

In general, this job was overwhelming due to the short staff and lack of funding.  I worked about 40 hours a week and was only paid for 24.  I was there late so many nights; my kids would play on the computers in the back, while I would be installing or re-hanging art for an opening.  The kids loved it, and got used to meals at Crepevine and video games while Mommy worked.  We even used the office to create my son's "Marin Report" on the Marin County Civic Center, one weekend in April.  Throughout the job, I responded to Membership calls from my cell phone daily, entered payments into Filemaker Pro and updated the database for shows.  I redesigned the Wendy Gruber Grant Application to fit on a double-sided page, a grant which I was awarded in 2007.  It felt like I'd come full circle from the time in which I myself had applied for that grant.  I printed countless labels, shopped for wire and supplies, schlepped ladders and tools to the Civic Center, moved display pedestals in my car, went to storage facility to get extra pedestals, vacuumed and took out the trash and recycling.  Cleaned up after receptions.  It was a huge effort, and I loved the work, despite the long hours and low pay.

In June of this year, Marin Arts was faced with a financial situation that forced me to look for a new position.  I was fortunate to find work as the Communications Coordinator for another San Rafael Art Center, Art Works Downtown.  Learn more about Art Works Downtown and 2nd Fridays Art Walk in my next post!

Important update on Marin Arts:
On October 5, 2011 at 7pm, the Marin Arts Council Members have called a "Special Member Meeting" to which all members of Marin Arts Council are requested to attend.  They plan to vote for a new Board of Directors, many of whom are artists themselves, and there will be a fiscal assessment update.  I hope this helps Marin Arts become financially viable again.  I would love to see some of the former staff reinstated to this organization that has the power to change lives with its assistance to artists.  I believe Ellen Campbell was a huge part of what made Marin Arts a success for so many years.  There were other greats at Marin Arts, such as Lance Walker, a grant writer, grants adviser and pun writer extraordinaire.  There have been many changes, and there will probably be more to come.  Best wishes to Marin Arts for the future.

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