SAQA’s Indiana (U.S.) Regional Representatives, Susie Goodman and Lisa Dodson, absolutely love to talk about SAQA—especially the Indiana region. We had a wonderful chat interspersed with much laughter as they shared their insight within the Indiana area.
The Indiana region experiences some of the same challenges as many other regions: meeting attendance, volunteering, and member participation. Their positive approach to resolve these problems is both singular and amusing.
Many of the region’s members live in Northern and Southern Indiana. While they don’t get together all around the state, they try to find centralized meeting locations. Susie and Lisa are firm believers that an interesting meeting in conjunction with lunch will attract members. Usually meetings are planned on a quarterly basis, but additional sessions may be scheduled if they tie in with an event of interest or an exhibit.
Members may drive up to three hours to attend meetings, especially when a special event or exhibit is part of the day. Studio visits are a favorite meeting type. Viewing each other’s studio allows members to discover how each individual setup provides the specialized space each artist requires for their own particular style of “magic” to happen. Whether it’s a studio visit or more typical type of meeting, every get-together features “Artist’s Expressions,” their updated terminology for Show and Tell. The Indiana region believes that the more members gather and become familiar with each other, the better the experience becomes for all.
Like other regions, they have learned when another fiber organization is in the area, it may affect meeting attendance. This may also impact volunteering as cross-over members of both SAQA and these organizations find their time limited or divided as they volunteer for events related to other fiber groups.
Meeting the Members’ Needs
To discover what members are looking for in both workshops and retreats, Lisa and Susie sent out a region-wide survey.
They found members prefer workshops that teach new and varied techniques. They also learned that members look beyond the structure of workshops—they also want free time to socialize, relax, and perhaps even work on their own projects.
The questionnaire also addressed the preferred time of year for such events. Unsurprisingly, no one wants to venture out during the Indiana winter for a retreat. Members prefer late spring, summer or early fall. They also prefer to work with potential venues to schedule during less busy times for availability and better prices. The information compiled will allow the reps to create events customized to members’ needs, wants, and tastes.
An extremely active closed Facebook group allows members to share their work with respectful critique and feedback. The closed group provides a safe space to share both ideas and artwork. Participants are strongly encouraged to “toot their horn” about events, awards, and acceptance into exhibits as well as all good things and news, which are happening in their lives.
In addition to broadcasting regional happenings, the newsletter includes info about SAQA’s website. Members are strongly encouraged to take advantage of the many wonderful and informative resources to be accessed there.
Workshops have been planned and are well attended. In 2017 Daren Redman presented a workshop on working/dyeing with Indigo. At the recent June regional meeting, Peggy Brown, well known watercolor painter and fiber collage artist, and Jen Broemel, intuitive and improvisational fiber artist, presented programs on how materials influence their art.
While Susie and Lisa know that members are interested in retreats, they’ve found it difficult to recruit volunteers to get the ball rolling. They find that many of the best candidates for organizing a retreat are already busy with other things, the reps are likewise pressed for time.
Special Events have been initiated to help members become involved as well as make connections. One such recent quirky event is the Quilt Bombing Project, a concept born at a SAQA Indiana “studio” meeting held at member Mary Ann Van Soest’s home. It was decided to ask members to sign up to create letters spelling out Indiana or for a letter to be included in the SAQA Indiana panel. All letters must be a specific size for uniformity, but to create the individual letters, any technique(s) goes. Lisa commented that this event is easy to do; all it takes is setting up the signage and staying awhile to chat about art quilts and SAQA.
The first “bombing” on Bloomington’s (home of Indiana University) Courthouse steps during an October 2017 “Friday Art Walk” was a fabulous success. Maps provided to attendees depict the various participating venues, businesses, and studios which provide opportunity for the public to view the art as they stroll through the area.
With the art pieces displayed, members ready for conversation, and SAQA literature available, much dialog ensued as passers-by asked questions about the art, various techniques employed, and SAQA. Lisa was struck by one of the often-repeated comments: “I didn’t know fabric could be used this way!”
To date, the completed set has traveled to the Indiana Heritage Quilt Show held in the Bloomington Convention Center and there are plans to have it at the Martinsville Fall Festival. Additional scheduling to have a set travel throughout Indiana is in the works. Also, several members are waiting to host two other sets, now nearly complete.
The region’s powerful traveling regional exhibit, Declaration of Sentiments: 1848—The Struggle Continues celebrates women’s accomplishments and honors their struggles throughout American history. The actual “Declaration of Sentiments” is the cornerstone document for women’s rights drafted July 1848 at our nation’s first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, NY. Some of women’s concerns at that time were employment, educational opportunities, voting and property rights, as well as social and religious degradation.
The goal is to see the exhibit travel to all the regions participating in the exhibition (KY/TN, IL/WI, IN/OH, and MO/KS/OK). Since its premiere at AQS Paducah (September 13-16, 2017), the exhibit has traveled to AQS Iowa (October 4-7, 2017), Indiana Heritage Quilt Show (March 1-3, 2018), and Marathon Center for Performing Arts, Findlay, OH (May 14- June 29, 2018). The region is working to secure two more exhibit spaces: Overland Park Show, Overland, KS, and Leedy-Voulkos Art Center in Kansas City, MO. Finding exhibition venues is a bit challenging but the region will continue to solicit more locales because the organizers feel that such a powerful exhibit needs to be seen.
Susie, who for the past 27 years has served on the Indiana Heritage Quilt Show (IHQS) Board as Special Exhibits Chair, is instrumental in ensuring SAQA exhibits are showcased each year. For IHQS 2018, the SAQA Trunk Show and the Quilt Bombing Project were also presented. The annual much-anticipated and popular IHQS Featured Artist special exhibit displays the art of a local SAQA member. Recent artists highlighted include Karen Hampton from Evansville in 2017 and Mary Ann Van Soest from De Mott in 2018. The art of MC Bunte from West Lafayette is on the horizon for 2019. These SAQA members, whose work fills about 72 linear feet of exhibit space, also serve as “Artists in Residence” on hand to interact with IHQS show guests answering a myriad of questions about techniques and materials. The reps were gratified when two people became new SAQA members as a direct result of this event.
Another exhibit, Dialogues: Contemporary Response to Marie Webster Quilts, (juried by Niloo Paydar, Curator of Textiles and Fashion Arts at the IMA, with Kate Lenkowsky as the Exhibit Coordinator) premiered at the Indianapolis Museum of Art in 2016 for this single showing. Knowing there was continued interest in this exhibit, Lisa and Susie decided to resurrect it. It has been presented in West Lafayette, Monroe County History Center, and The Quilters Hall of Fame located Marie Webster’s home. To round out the “Dialogues” exhibit at this venue, The Quilters Hall of Fame Director, Deb Geyer, showcased several of Ms. Webster’s original quilts.
Like so many SAQA regions, Indiana experiences the same problems motivating members to volunteer for various tasks. Their feeling is perhaps members may feel unsure of themselves and are shy about stepping up to volunteer. Both reps have discovered many folks just need to be asked face to face to do a task. They also stressed how extremely important it is to be specific with what the task entails.
The reps depend on their membership to let them know what’s happening throughout the state and to suggest ideas for meeting programs and places.
While they don’t have a POD system (like Florida Region’s PODs) in place, the Reps have seen members attend the quarterly meetings only to discover they live near each other. These members usually make arrangements to gather independently of the regional meetings and may eventually start their own small group get together.
Susie remarked on the rich talent pool in Indiana. Her favorite reason for being a regional rep? She loves watching people who are perhaps timid about sharing their art come to a meeting, and with the support of others, start entering shows and having their art accepted. She finds that seeing the change that comes over them as they grow in their art journey is really fun to watch.
Susie commented, “I enjoy getting together with like-minded people and watching the joy that happens when we share our art with each other. It’s a wonderful feeling and something great to be a part of.”
The reps do the best they can for continued growth of their membership and help in any way they can to ensure their members receive what they need from each other and from SAQA. They want to be a group that people want to join.
As mentioned earlier, other fiber groups provide a challenge for enticing their members to also be part of SAQA Indiana. Because it’s difficult for long-time members to pull away from these groups, the reps feel it’s a compliment that some are also active with SAQA Indiana. Lisa and Susie interpret this as a sign that these artists are happy with SAQA and are enjoying their journey with their region.
By the end of our delightful interview, Lisa and Susie had underscored their love of SAQA—and the Indiana region. As of the writing of this article, no one has volunteered to take on the upcoming vacancies for the Regional Rep positions. Hopefully, before their respective terms of office end, other volunteers will come forward to carry on the creative work of helping to guide this dynamic region.
Article written and pictures provided by Diane Powers Harris.