Fall 2007 Vol 33 No 3

A Quarterly Review of Tapestry Art Today

©2006 American Tapestry Alliance

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Note: Addendum to Tapestry Topics, "Then and Now" summer issue, v.33 no.2


A Look Into ATA's History: 1993-1996

By Marti Fleischer



Let's face it: I am a questionnaire junkie. Nothing will get me to buy a magazine faster than a side-bar on the cover that says, "Test your color sense" or "How good a wife are you?".

That's why, when Jim Brown sent me a questionnaire in 1992, I couldn't resist answering all the questions and even referring to the back of the page with additional comments. He wanted to know what I thought of ATA and - bottom line - how the organization could be revitalized and improved. This was right up my alley because I had been involved in volunteer organizations as a volunteer and as a paid employee for many years.

It seems that two other members, Tommye Scanlin and Courtney Shaw, also got Jim's attention because he contacted us via a conference call in an effort to encourage us to form a committee that would revitalize ATA. We rose to the challenge with Tommye contacting previous members asking for support (and dues) and Courtney started publishing a quarterly newsletter. My job was to coordinate the activities.

It was absolutely amazing what we did! Since asked to write this article, I have reviewed old files and newsletters and I am really astounded at the success we had. The people Tommye contacted paid their dues. In those pre-email days we got letters and telephone calls saying how great the newsletter was and it seemed that every time we asked for volunteers we got them!

We proceeded through the boring part of an organization, establishing a structure from president to president and from board to board. But the old ideals remained and eventually flourished. All the traditional organizational tools were put in place including setting goals, writing bylaws, starting a newsletter, setting budgets, organizing a proper bookkeeping system, (which later became computerized thanks to Betty Hilton-Nash), forming committees, electing a board of directors, planning a structure for seminars, workshops and symposia, and eventually applying for non-profit status. That first board of directors involved in these mundane activities consisted of Tommye, Courtney and Jim plus Mary Dieterich, Nancy Harvey, Janet Fischer, Karen Fricker, Bev Kent and Suzanne Pretty. Later additions to the board included Victor Jacoby, Olga Neuts, Jeyhan Rohani, Virginia Salisbury, Kathy Spoering, Claudia Chase and Jackie Wollenberg.

Our first "public appearance" was an inspiring seminar at Convergence '94 in Minneapolis, chaired and moderated by Nancy Harvey, with speakers Grete Bodogaard, Marcel Marois, Micala Sidore and Helga Berry. It was also the site of our initial board meeting. This was my first opportunity to meet real tapestry artists and I was both overwhelmed by the talent and relaxed by the warm support that ATA members were willing to share. Those emotions haven't changed over all these years!

It was decided that some activity would take place in alternate-Convergence years. These lofty plans were often changed due to availability (or non-availability) of speakers or venues. In '94, on the heels of Convergence, Letty Roller curated an exhibit in Lima, Ohio with Carol Russell as the keynote speaker. This was the forerunner of a 1995 seminar in conjunction with Ohio State University on design with Lilian Tyrell as speaker. The seminar, Design Solutions, was a dream of Letty's and she served as chair of the event and set the stage for a similar event held at Convergence '96 in Portland that was chaired by Judy Schuster with panelists Mary Dieterich, Jeyhan Rohani and Tommye Scanlin. Sad to say, there were some unattained goals: a guild list, list of possible venues for exhibitions, educational guide, a guide to successful public relations and developing a relationship with architects and interior designers for the promotion of tapestry sales. Also planned were a materials and supplies directory that never became a reality but was covered quarterly by Claudia Chase in her newsletter series, "Tapestry Toolbox". However, one of the planned informational booklets did become a reality: American Tapestries in Public Places was written and published by Judy Schuster.

You know it really helps if no one tells you that you can't do something. It never occurred to me that I had no experience in planning what became an international art exhibition; fortunately Kathy Spoering stepped forward and offered to chair American Tapestry Biennial I (ATB-I). My local art center (Oak Ridge, TN) agreed to provide the opening venue before the exhibit traveled to Southern Illinois University with Karen Fricker chairing, East Carolina University (Janet Fischer, chair) and Golden, Colorado, where Kathy supervised the exhibit. ATB-I was the precursor for the successive biennials, an ongoing tradition that is evidenced with ATB-6.



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