What makes WAA special? I’d like to address this core question from a personal perspective borne of my own experiences as a member, a volunteer, and an exhibitor. Elsewhere on this website, you can find information about our organization’s long history, its many achievements, and its varied programs. While this information is certainly useful in providing a picture of what we do, it doesn’t go to the heart of what I cherish most about WAA.
WAA is an open community of individuals. It is a community that reflects, stimulates, and informs its members’ interests in the arts. It is a community dedicated to imagination, creativity, skill, excellence, and mutual support. It welcomes professional and amateur artists, those with an interest in making art and exploring their own creativity, and those who simply feel enriched by a connection to artistic expression.
Being a part of WAA is an unmediated, face-to-face, person-to-person experience. WAA is member-driven and member-run. WAA is about people and a spirit of volunteerism and self-government. Its tiny, capable, hard-working staff depends every day on the efforts of trustees and members who contribute their ideas, time, energy, and resources to the many tasks that are required to keep the organization robust.
While WAA uses many of the new communication tools that are now available, it remains essentially old fashioned, in the best sense, in that it’s more about the visceral than the virtual. The digital revolution has brought us many unforeseen benefits and permitted us to experience previously unimagined forms of connectivity. At the same time, though, it has distorted the realms of the private and the public. Using social media, we can experience both an artificial sense of intimacy with “friends” we barely know and a pervasive sense of disconnectedness, anonymity, and estrangement. A “like” or a “thumbs up” sign doesn’t feel quite like the approving smile of someone whose opinion you cherish, and frenzied texting doesn’t compare to the warmth of an evening spent with friends. In contrast, I’ve found that WAA retains a touchingly personal ambience: it is a place where real people with all their quirks and endearing qualities share interests and celebrate the human spirit.
Closed communities maintain identity, cohesion, and a sense of obligation among their members by establishing borders and differences that separate those within from those without. An open community such as WAA maintains solidarity among its members by creating opportunities for common experiences and by emphasizing affinities, such as a love of art. Members choose to be a part of WAA not out of a sense of obligation but rather because it is enriching and just plain fun. WAA is porous and welcoming to those who are attracted by what it offers, and it is keen to share what it has to offer with the broader society of which it sees itself as a part.
Although I’m writing this letter only two weeks after my election to the presidency of WAA, I’ve already had many hours of meetings with staff, members, and trustees who have indelibly impressed upon me the vast amount of good will and commitment that powers our organization. I look forward to working with this talented and congenial crew to maintain and strengthen the vitality of the WAA community, while also finding additional ways of serving people of all ages in Northwest Connecticut. Our efforts will be directed toward: building membership; expanding educational programs; offering members additional opportunities to exhibit their work, while continuing to feature the work of exemplary artists; and, not least, by enhancing WAA’s financial security. As we work toward these goals, every member matters. I invite you to be a part of this exciting endeavor.
Jay Kaplan, President