The directors of the Woodstock Artists Association & Museum, which itself underwent some major changes at the beginning of June, announced the resignation of the organization’s executive director of the past four-and-a-half years, Janice LaMotta, effective June 30.
LaMotta had been furloughed at the start of the recent statewide lockdown, and brought back on after WAAM received federal Payroll Protection Program funds in late May. She expressed concerns that her furlough had set her back financially, and showed a lack of trust in the organization’s staff when asked about the lockdown actions.
Concurrent with her return, six-year WAAM board chair Danny Rubenstein announced he was stepping down from the artists’ association board. Laurie Marshall was elected to replace him.
Because of continuing financial difficulties from this year’s shutdown of the WAAM galleries, as well as the postponement of its main spring and summer fundraising activities, Marshall said this week that the board decided that cost-cutting measures would need to be taken. Director LaMotta had also served as curator of WAAM’s permanent collection and shepherded the organization through its centennial year in 2019,
“We knew when Janice came back from furlough, and even before, that we were in a period of fiscal difficulty we’d have to face,” Marshall explained this week. “We asked Janice if she’d take a modest pay cut, and she chose to leave. The board is disappointed.”
The WAAM board intends to continue following the path LaMotta established during her tenure, and has put out a press release praising her years as director. They have begun a nationwide search for a new director. Given that their assistant director, Bryana Devine, has just given birth, they hired an interim office manager, Ellen Siebers, to keep up with the organization’s paperwork during that search. Siebers was chosen, Marshall said, from a field of 17 applicants.
“We are carefully planning for new leadership on a leaner budget,” the board chair continued. “We have a strong staff and a good board that’s working well together .… I feel confident, but we’re going to be cautious.”
At the group’s May 28 membership meeting, held on Zoom, Marshall spoke about the organization’s financial situation. while LaMotta talked about WAAM projects happening remotely, and plans for eventual reopening.
Marshall said that the board feels good about the lectures, virtual gallery visits and other things happening online, and the board’s exhibition committee is making plans for whenever reopening occurs.
She further noted that the August 30 annual membership meeting will also be held online. A call for candidates for several open board seats will be going out in the coming week, and voting will take place online the week before the meeting.
The board is also looking for help now on the WAAM building committee in order to customize its facilities to meet the state’s new Covid 19 protocols.
In the past WAAM membership meetings have sometimes turned fiery and teary. Marshall expressed determination that this would not be the case this year. “WAAM is a much stronger, more forward-thinking organization thanks to Janice LaMotta’s dedication and vision,” she said. “We cannot thank her enough. and wish her every success. We are slowly finding our way.”
For information, visit woodstockart.org. For board and membership information, look under “about.”