Volume 18, Number 1 .... January 1996

President's Letter

by Neil Cockerline

I believe that members of the WAAC Board generally find the experience of serving the membership to be an enjoyable one. In the past year I have certainly found this to be true, and I owe my thanks to Pauline Mohr, immediate past President, for convincing me to formally get involved with WAAC. Pauline contributed much to our organization during her tenure. The annual meeting is always the hallmark of one's presidency, and Pauline's selection of and arrangements made at Montecito-Sequoia proved to be most memorable. Certainly the photographs from the Crystal Cave Tour which some of you have sent to me are a definite testament!

I want to take this opportunity to thank the other WAAC Board Members who donated their time, energy and, experience on behalf of our organization during the past year including Mary Hough, Secretary/Treasurer, and Members-at-large Jane Bassett, Walter Henry and Elizabeth Welsh. I also welcome the new Board Members, John Griswold, Marc Harnly and Karen Zukor, and our new Vice President Elizabeth Welsh.

Already the new Board has jumped into a number of tasks and issues. One of the largest projects is the revision of the By-laws, which Liz Welsh has undertaken with zeal. As she discussed briefly at Montecito-Sequoia, this is a very important issue for our membership. Originally an attempt to remove gender specific language from our governing document, this revision has evolved into a much broader review of the way with which our organization is run. This includes adding one Member-at-large for a total of four, with alternating two year terms, allowing smoother transitions and continuing experience for changing Boards. Of course, all of the memberships' input is very important in this process, and I hope you will review the proposed changes and voice your opinions when the proposed By-laws are sent to you later in the year. It is our hope that the revision can be completed and voted on at the next annual meeting. Chris Stavroudis has also taken on the challenge of the position of Secretary/Treasurer, and has already computerized our accounting records and made other revisions to streamline and improve our book and record keeping.

I think many of you are aware that I am not a particular fan of flora and fauna, and I take full responsibility for the decision that after three years in a row of retreat settings for our annual meeting, it is time for something new. Our 1996 annual meeting will be in Las Vegas, Nevada and already many of the arrangements have been completed. The meeting will be held October 6-9, at Jackie Gaughn's Union Plaza Hotel in downtown Las Vegas. I have spent considerable time already researching and developing a schedule/plan for this meeting, and I believe this venue will not let anyone down. After reviewing several properties, including the major "strip" hotels such as the Mirage, etc., the Union Plaza proved to be the best choice for a number of reasons. At many of the hotels, meeting rooms are adjacent to the casinos, so that when you open the door, the ringing of bells and shouting of winners (and losers) creates a din that would not facilitate the presentation of professional papers. At the Union Plaza, however, the meeting rooms are on a completely separate floor, so other than to register for your hotel room, you never have to enter the casino. I am planning on working with an audio-visual company in Las Vegas to provide the best possible equipment for those individuals who will be presenting papers, and you might start considering whether you have a project or subject you would like to present at the meeting. It's never too early to start thinking about participating in the meeting!

In the past, the President and Secretary/Treasurer have always had a flood of members trying to register and obtain rooms for the meeting at the last minute. Let me warn you right now, that we will not be handling any of the room reservations. This will be handled completely by the hotel, and you should be aware that October is the busiest convention month in Las Vegas, so you will need to plan ahead. Another reason the Union Plaza was selected was the price they could offer us. Rooms will be $40 per night, for either single or double occupancy Sunday through Thursday, and $50 per night for Friday or Saturday, (plus 10% room tax) just in case you want to arrive early and play! The hotel recently completed a full interior renovation and the rooms are very nice. We have a block of 60 rooms set aside for us, but reservations must be made by September 6, 1996, including a first night's deposit. After that date, reservations will be accepted on a space available basis, and the convention rate will not be guaranteed. So plan ahead, and contact the hotel directly at 1-800-634-6575, and remember to tell them you are with the Western Association for Art Conservation!

Many other meeting arrangements are still being completed, including plans for the banquet, receptions, etc. We are planning on keeping evenings free so that you may enjoy the varied Las Vegas night life. Of course, Las Vegas is known for its casinos and gaming (which finances everything from cheap airfares to stuff yourself buffets for under $5), but it is also the show capital of the U.S., and every kind of entertainment is available from Broadway musicals to extravagant variety shows to comedy clubs to internationally renowned magicians to top line singers, etc., etc. Las Vegas also has a number of interesting museums to explore from traditional historical museums to the more outrageous such as the famed Liberace Museum! The Las Vegas Children's Museum is also one of the most respected in America. Flora and fauna are not completely absent either, as Red Rock Canyon is minutes from downtown, and is touted as one of America's most beautiful natural settings. Anyway, make your plans now for Las Vegas!

On a more somber note, apathy may kill us. The latest word from the National Endowment for the Arts is that the fiscal year 1996 budget has been slashed by approximately 40% from the 1995 level. This reduction has resulted in the cancellation of the Care of Collections category for FY 1996, as well as a 50% reduction in the NEA staff. 1996 will be a "transitional" year for the NEA, as a major restructuring of the Arts Endowment is being undertaken. This affects ALL of us, whether we are private conservators who work with institutions, or institutional staff conservators. It also affects working professionals as well as new program graduates who have become dependent on grant funded internships and fellowships while working toward a shrinking number of permanent positions. 1996 is looking ever so grim in many respects, however, there is always at least one small ray of light at the end of the tunnel.

1996 is also an Election Year! Already we have begun to see our politicians dance, and soon they will be jumping through hoops! As an old circus acrobat, this is something I always witness with particular glee. Now is the time to make them SWEAT! How do we do this? Get ready to vote, vote, VOTE! Educate yourselves! Make it a point to find out where your candidates stand on the issues. Did your Congressperson vote to cut the NEA? Don't forget this in the voting booth! I am sure we have all rallied to the cause with letters to our politicians, but now more than ever is the time to voice your opinions. If the pen is really mightier than the sword, En garde!

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