A View from the Other Side,Rosemary Swimm
I am a true lover of art, a collector of art, someone who appreciates art in all its forms – I’ve been married to an artist for over forty years, have worked at art galleries, owned a framing company and for the last 8 years have been the Executive Director of the Laguna Plein Air Painters Association (LPAPA), one of the most prestigious art organizations in the country and yet the big question I am asked more times than I can count always seems to be: “Do you paint too?”
How do I answer that question? I know my strengths and I know my weaknesses!
My strength lies in administration; the ability to guide others through what to them may seem like a deep ocean of rules, regulations, paper work, etc. I get to say I run the Laguna Plein Air Painters Association! If you don’t know, the Laguna Plein Air Painters Association (LPAPA) is a 501(3)(c) nonprofit arts organization based in Laguna Beach, California, with a membership and art community presence on a national and global level. LPAPA’s mission and now mine is to enhance the visibility and livelihoods of its artists through the prestigious Plein Air Invitational and other programs. LPAPA provides professional development and business management education to its members. LPAPA enhances its mission through alliances with complementary arts organizations and provides mentoring and scholarships to emerging artists.
Back in 2009, as I was coming to the realization that after 12 years I no longer wanted to own a framing company and deal with all that was involved with owning a business – employees, dealing with suppliers, the physical work involved in actually making frames, etc., a dear friend posed the question and presented a potential opportunity for me…”Do you think you’d like to work for an art organization?” At that time I was unfamiliar with LPAPA but was interested in pursuing what I thought might be an exciting new opportunity and really how hard could it be! After my initial meeting with LPAPA’s Board of Directors and learning a little more about the organization I was intrigued and thought really how difficult could it be, just a couple part time hours a week to handle the few programs and the couple of events that at that time were in place. So yes, I was in.
After making the initial decision to take on the position, I asked myself what do I have that I can bring to the organization, was I ready to take on such an important task? I knew that if I was in, I needed to be all in. This is where knowing ones strengths and believing in them comes in.
An artist possesses multiple talents that they bring to the canvas to create a work of art: composition, color, a well-drawn image, brushstrokes etc. An executive Director needs to have multiple talents as well to bring to their organization to create, mold, improve and maintain the best organization possible. I decided right from the start that my job was to promote, protect and provide for LPAPA’s members. If you take care of your members, you take care of your organization.
One strength I believe I possess is to know that it’s not about the one but the whole. I knew I wanted to make LPAPA the best of the best, to increase membership, to add programs and to make the existing programs even stronger. LPAPA’s strength and comes from the dedication of it’s board of directors, it’s members, it’s supporters, its advisors, its volunteers and yes it’s director. I learned you need to listen to what is important to your members and your supporters.
So I asked myself, if I was an artist why would I want to be a member of LPAPA. I knew that there were a number of organizations that artists could belong to, my job - how do I get them to choose LPAPA. Take care of your artists, provide programs, provide educational opportunities, provide exhibition opportunities, provide social media platforms, provide website presence. All of this of course takes those strengths I knew I could draw on. My love of art, my love of helping others, my knowledge of event planning, my ability to remain calm under pressure. - all of these strengths have helped accomplish for LPAPA:
Today, LPAPA’s membership has grown to over 400 artists spanning the U.S., Canada, South America, Australia, Antigua, Germany and England.
LPAPA is considered the stewards of Laguna’s plein air legacy.
“Plein Air Project” - a 3 or 4 step program that provides 4th grade students with opportunities to learn about the history of Plein Air in California, to see in person an acclaimed collection Plein Air Art, to watch and participate in a live demonstration by a professional Plein Air painter and to actually become a Plein Air painter for the day. To date this program has reached close to 2,000 students.
“Plein Talks” - lively conversations with a panel of knowledgeable experts in the field of plein air art, art history and art collecting – “Ask any question”
“LPAPA In Residence” – permanent exhibition location, located at Forest & Ocean Gallery allows monthly shows of plein air art.
“Mentor Paintouts & Workshops” - LPAPA Signature members conduct monthly on site paintouts & workshops. Attendance is open to all LPAPA members, students, local community residents, general public, including tourists passing by
“LOCA/LPAPA” Workshops - through a grant-based program both non-profits have joined together to present community based art educational programs.
“Best of Plein Air” – an art exhibition that is open to all local as well as nationally recognized plein air artist. This is an opportunity to see the best of the best in this particular genre of work right here in Laguna Beach, considered the home of Plein Air and the center of American landscape painting.
“Laguna Beach Plein Air Painting Invitational” - This event had it’s origins back in 1998 when LPAPA approached the LAM with an idea, 14 years of collaboration came to a close in 2013 and LPAPA has since presented this event and has been nationally recognized for being leaders in plein air festivals. Artists of the highest caliber clamor to be a part of this event, a part of LPAPA & Laguna Beach history. As LPAPA’s flagship event, the invitational brings together all aspects of its mission and service to the community. This year we will be celebrating our 18th year presenting this prestigious event – known as the “Best Plein Air Event “ on the West Coast!
My view from the other side hopefully shows an ability to listen, an ability to see one’s needs, an ability to implement procedures, an ability to plan and produce programs, an ability to know what I can do and when I need to seek out help and lastly, but definitely not least, an ability to find the necessary funding to keep the greatest member based art organization running successfully.
My greatest gift from being the Executive Director of LPAPA is getting to know all of the members of LPAPA and finding new friends around every corner.
Visit www.lpapa.org for learn more about this organization.