The Woodstock Artists Association & Museum (WAAM), which celebrated its centennial in 2019, recently came out of its pause… or at least a portion of it.
In early April, the organization’s board of directors announced that it had decided to furlough half its staff, including executive director Janice La Motta, as a means of “keeping our virtual lights on” during the current pandemic and economic downturn.
Press releases and announcements that went out last week to announce an upcoming membership meeting on Thursday, May 28, as well as changes on the WAAM board of directors, were sent by La Motta, the first sign of any communication from the organization or its director in over a month.
Checking in with La Motta this week, we learned that she’d been notified that a grant from the federal Paycheck Protection Program had come in the previous week, allowing her to go off unemployment and resume her previous work, and salary, along with the other two WAAM employees placed on furlough.
“There’s a lot of catching up to do, having been furloughed these past five weeks,” the executive director said.
“Normally, we’d be having our biggest fundraiser at the end of this month. Most of our other funding has declined or become nonexistent while our costs are fixed… We debated options and decided it would not be smart to shut down the entire organization since it wouldn’t be good for our artists. The only way to significantly reduce costs would be to furlough some of our staff,” said the WAAM board’s president at the time, Danny Rubenstein, when asked about the decision to furlough the organization’s executive director in April. “Two of our board members will be interfacing with the staff, one dealing with facilities and other physical plant matters and the other focusing on Internet and social media activities. We’re keeping the virtual lights on, limping along, trying to do the best we can.”
Rubenstein, who had headed the WAAM board for six years, added in his early April interview that he’d be overseeing the business side of the organization, a role he filled during an interim period between directors that ended with the hiring of La Motta in the autumn of 2015.
One of the announcements sent out by La Motta last week noted that the Woodstock Artist Association & Museum Board of Directors “is pleased to announce the appointment of Laurie Marshall as our new chair, effective May 11, 2020.”
Marshall, an artist and filmmaker, has been a member of WAAM since the early 1990s and comes to the organization with extensive experience managing corporate departments that produced content about art, gardening and education. She was a vice president at Christie’s for 17 years and previously developed and supervised projects at Scholastic, Hearst, IBM/Workman Publishing and WNET/Thirteen.
There was no word about the process by which Rubenstein left the board, or how Marshall was elected, other than a note that the former president would continue to consult with WAAM. La Motta also pointed out that noted art historian and curator/author Tom Wolf has come onto the board to fill Rubenstein’s spot.
The General membership meeting will take place on Zoom on Thursday, May 28 at 7 p.m., with pre-registration necessary for all WAAM members in good standing. Reports on the organization’s various aspects, including programming, will be sent out before the meeting. Marshall and La Motta will preside.
La Motta asked that participating members send in questions before the meeting, or submit them during it via the Zoom chat line. She added that the agenda will focus on plans regarding virtual programming, increasing communications and fundraising for the foreseeable future.
“At the end of the day, we’re all working with assumptions,” she said about the number of “unknowables” regarding reopening of arts and educational facilities moving forward. “We have to remain nimble… it’s going to be a new environment.”