At long last, year 45 is O-VER!
Seven months ago, I took a long, deep breath…and have followed the prescribed motions of past co-chairs to guide and tweak the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts, an annual two-day public event in Downtown Tampa.
The experience of managing 21 volunteer committees (and 40 or so committee volunteers), in equal partnership with two other co-chairs, while yielding to the president and vice president, put the three of us in the position of catchall.
I learned much about motivation, expectations, and emotional intelligence while serving multiple roles in one. To committees, I was the one with answers (I had very few). To the GFA Board and Executive Leadership, I was a producer. A doer.
Cranky artists decided that I was the fixer, based purely on my lanyard and earpiece. That I had the power of god to summon blue skies and bales of hay to soak up mud, despite warnings from the Parks & Recreation Dept. that “nothing loose on the ground was acceptable.”[Mother Nature did not cooperate for the weekend; we dealt with 2.5 inches of rain and then poor drainage.]
In many moments, I had to decide a course of action, as it related to our artists, though always by majority vote with the other co-chairs and executive leadership.
The role of co-chair is every bit a full-time position squeezed into the interstitial space between my paid job and my social life / sleeping time. I volunteered to answer the festival e-mail account, which I’ll be happy to untether from my phone come June.
Of course, I knew the cumulative experience would be valuable. Unlike most parts of first-world professional life, being the ‘person-in-charge’ of 245 artists, some 50,000 patrons, $75,000 in awards, and about 100 moving targets puts you in plenty of uncomfortable situations.
High-stress, high-fatigue customer service punching bag is a good description.
But, it’s over. And no one died.
The co-chairs next step, with executive leadership, is a debrief meeting with the City of Tampa. Could be tense, considering the rigidity we encountered when seeking help and strategies to mitigate water and mud in three quarters of our aisles, where many artists complained they got very little foot traffic, and thus, few sales.
At the core, GFA is an institution built on the success of the artists. Only a few are guaranteed a spot each year during the jury process, but many apply, and many make it in year after year. And, they come from all over the country (even Canada), because our festival has that kind of reputation.
I will not be returning as a member of the Board next year. This is the end of my career with GFA.
But I may just reappear in time for the 50th year (2020), to volunteer, and celebrate a half-century of fabulous, accessible art in Downtown Tampa.
At the least, I will take my trinkets of GFA to Milan, from Lisa Ashinoff (Virginia Beach) and Tony Nozero (New Orleans). A modest beginning to what will hopefully be a lifetime of art collecting.