City helping Yuma Fine Arts reorganize itself
The Yuma Fine Arts Association turned 50 this year, but instead of planning a gala, the organization is in the midst of reinventing itself after all but one of the board members recently resigned.
Former board members declined to comment.
However, explained City Administrator Greg Wilkinson, the unusual move came about because of conflict between the board and former executive director Carolyn J. Bennett over terms of her employment due to the lack of a contract with her.
While the Yuma Fine Arts Association is an independent organization, it has been receiving temporary city funding and support. For fiscal year 2012-13, the organization was allocated $35,000 by the Yuma City Council to pay for its executive director. The organization also has its office in the city-owned Yuma Art Center and operates the gift shop there as a fundraiser.
Yuma Fine Arts Association's mission is to bring artists to the community, schedule art shows at the Yuma Art Center and install and hang exhibits there. It also puts on a variety of fundraisers, such as the recent Octoberfest.
Because the organization no longer had a governing board, Wilkinson delivered a letter Oct. 15 to YFA members notifying them the city was issuing a 30-day notice of termination.
“Without a board, there was no functioning organization,” he said. “The city's contract was with the board. There's no board so there's no contract with the city.”
But that's not the end of the story.
“The city feels the fine arts are an important element of the community,” Wilkinson said. “And there are still several members (about 250) so we wanted to facilitate re-establishing a board and hope they'll be able to function on their own again.”
During the reorganization, the gift shop at the Yuma Art Center remains open.
The plan outlined by Wilkinson includes soliciting applications for potential new board members, enlisting a city citizens committee to help YFA members select the 15 people that will sit on a new Fine Arts board, and assist the new board in organizing itself and naming officers. In addition, city legal and parks staff would help draft a new set of bylaws and develop a boiler plate contract for the YFA's future executive directors. The city would also explore adding a rider to the organization's insurance policy to cover the board in the event an employee threatens to sue.
“Hopefully, at this point the city can step back and the Fine Arts board is back in place,” Wilkinson said.
“It's actually exciting,” said Isaac Russell, chairman of the city's Parks, Arts and Recreation Commission, a YFA member and a member of the organization's interim board.
“We're putting the call out for volunteers,” he said, noting that people with diverse backgrounds are being sought to bring new energy and ideas to the organization.
“We want a forward-looking board,” he said, “one that will better serve the interests of the community by bringing more diversity and a more modern edge to the shows.
“We want the next 50 years to be even better than the first 50 years,” he said.
Joyce Lobeck can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6853. Find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/YSJoyceLobeck or on Twitter at @YSJoyceLobeck.