On a slippery, snowy night, Feb. 6, fewer chairs were filled at the Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association (NEMAA) annual meeting, compared to an October meeting where the board of directors owned up to the organization incurring more than $60,000 in unpaid debt.
Still, about 50 people were there to hear that NEMAA’s loan from Propel Nonprofits had been paid back on schedule, along with the first ten percent of the debt to their printer. And they said Art-A-Whirl will take place in May on the strength of memberships and ad sales.
Attendees viewed the cover design for the printed Art-A-Whirl directory which will feature, with a few tweaks, the familiar tornado logo that had been used for most of the event’s 20-some years but dropped last year. An edition of N Studio Magazine, which is stocked at the airport and other visitor centers, will appear on the flip side. Interim Executive Director Anna Becker said there has been demand from those venues for re-stocking of last May’s magazine.
The meeting started awkwardly, with members asked to vote without a quorum, bylaws, ballots or bios to read, to confirm the slate of board members that was filled by the board itself, apparently in accordance with the bylaws. When requested by an audience member, the board members stated their credentials. NEMAA President Greg Foley promised that the bylaws would eventually appear on the NEMAA website, and he confirmed that there is not now public notice given of board meetings, though they do meet monthly and committees meet monthly.
The board does not currently have a treasurer, though some individuals are being considered. The process for filling board slots consists of board members approaching people they know, or who are recommended, or who apply. Becker said Propel still oversees their financials and there is a finance committee.
Recent additions to the now 10-member board include Anna Palmquist, an artist in the Northrup King Building who also has a graphics business and is adept at social media; and Robert Kasak, an owner of 612 Brew, who is organizing Northeast breweries to be more full financial participants in the Art-A-Whirl studio crawl event. The point was made that more than half the board are artists or artists in addition to other credentials.
Jamie Schumacher birthed Altered Esthetics gallery which eventually moved out of Northeast. She worked for Northeast Community Development Corporation, and has helped various organizations with transitions. She had a message for the NEMAA group: “Upheaval can be full of blame. It can jeopardize funding. But it can also be positive, a great way of removing the chaff and aligning with core mission, reconnecting in an open and transparent way.”
She said artists are really good at change, and at figuring things out. “We’re smart, savvy and stubborn. Resist the temptation to coulda-woulda-shoulda-they-shoulda and bring to Art-A-Whirl the power of an artist-driven organization.”
Becker reported that 350 memberships had come in as of Feb. 6; 21 new. It’s a pace similar to last year, when eventually close to 1,000 signed up. Becker told the Northeaster 550 were in as of Feb. 14 and that she expected to hit 700 over the weekend. Directory/magazine ad sales are estimated at 80 percent of last year and all told, she’s confident that a lean Art-A-Whirl can be produced (for $100,000 to $110,000 vs. previously $160,000-$200,000) “and I’m determined that it’ll be the best ever.”
Debbie Woodward from the Northrup King Building has started fundraising for the $6,000 needed to run the trolleys. Also trimmed from the basic Art-A-Whirl budget: Police assistance and direct spending for print advertising.
In October, Becker announced she would step down after Art-A-Whirl, at the end of June 2019. To an audience question of “would you please run for Executive Director?” Becker said she would allow her name to be put on a short list. She shared that her salary if she stayed on, and other operating expenses for July through December 2019 would run $55,000.
Woodward said, about the $55,000 for operating expenses, “That would be a $55 problem for [each of] the members, let’s come together and get this taken care of.”
Various people suggested alternative ways of raising funds, including naming rights and major corporate sponsorships – with a lot of discussion about whether that would represent a loss of community image or control. Former Council Member Paul Ostrow, who has served on the NEMAA board for many years, mentioned that supportive residents can buy community friend memberships at $75. Someone suggested that Northeast’s bars give one percent of their profits from Art-A-Whirl weekend.
NEMAA will hold an origami night at Bauhaus Brew Labs on Feb. 21, and will have other engagement opportunities. It was generally agreed that more outreach and volunteer recruiting is needed. As a woman who is a new member said, “Make sure you’re not just going to the cluster that always gets attention.”
To contact NEMAA, call 612-788-1679 or email info@NEMAA.org. The website is www.NEMAA.org. They are active on Facebook and offer an e-newsletter. The Feb. 15 membership deadline for inclusion in the directory has been extended to March 1, 2019.
Disclosure: Margo Ashmore is active in the Northeast Minneapolis Arts District board and committees, and is a past coordinator of Art-A-Whirl. The Northeaster has traditionally been listed as a sponsor of NEMAA’s Art-A-Whirl in exchange for newspaper advertising.