I’ve had the privilege of serving on your Hamilton Arts Council for almost five years. That means I’m entering my final year as a Board member. This affords me the opportunity to reflect on what it’s like to be a part of this organization, what Staff and the Board have accomplished and where I see us moving in the near and long term future. I hope to convey how challenging and rewarding it has been to serve on the Board of the Hamilton Arts Council while encouraging the best, brightest and most engaged individuals to consider applying for a position on the Board and help advance our arts service and advocacy in Hamilton.
At my first two meetings at the HAC I sat quietly, obediently not making a peep so as to soak in what we were all about. Well, that didn’t last long. Three months after joining, our Executive Director took ill and the Board began a difficult year and a half of intense leadership requiring everyone to pitch in. Suddenly we were assisting with daily operations when none of us were arts administrators. It was a pretty crazy year for a Board I was told I would spend about two hours a month participating on. Ha!
As our Interim Executive Director, Patti Cannon was immensely helpful during that time of need. She gave us much needed stability and the short term guidance to perform a thorough review of the arts council, which at that time was called Arts Hamilton. That was a huge step forward that brought the Board, Staff and the community we serve together to answer the fundamental question of whether Hamilton needed and wanted an arts council. The answer was a resounding yes. We then had to identify how to be better, more relevant. That was tough. It was uncomfortable. It was emotionally draining and I felt like I had no idea what direction we were headed in. However, I don’t think we would be enjoying our relative resurgence in support among artists and the larger community today without all of that hard work.
The review, conducted by the well respected Janis Barlow, resulted in our necessary shift away from programming and working instead to amplify the voice of the arts community of the Greater Hamilton Area. Responding to all of this soul searching, we changed our mission to communicate, advocate and mediate for the arts in the community of Hamilton. Since then, the HAC has hired Stephanie Vegh as our Executive Director, rebranded, restructured, launched a new website to benefit members, placed arts service at the centre of our strategic plan, and become a vocal presence at City Hall and in local media to convey our perspective as an umbrella organization for the arts in Hamilton.
So now what? We continue to work on providing improved services to our membership base and to growing that base. This will be done through our amazing new website, an improved membership affinity program and a new annual print publication that will expand on all the best features of our current Theatre and Gallery Guides. We have a lot of work to do in 2014, and for this current Board that also means finding some great new people to join the team at our Annual General Meeting later this year. We’re already thinking ahead to recruiting new Board members in June so we would love to hear from you if you think you would be a good fit to join us in serving on the Board of the Hamilton Arts Council.