Dover Art League hopes to paint a brighter future

 

The exterior of the Dover Art League at 21 W. Loockerman Street in Dover. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

DOVER — The Dover Art League is preparing to take a couple of steps back in hopes of taking even greater strides moving forward.

Ashley Jaudon, the interim president of the board of directors at the Dover Art League, said that beginning on Feb. 1 the art league will be scaling back its activities for around three to six months in order to re-evaluate before relaunching the organization.

During that time period there will be a temporary break from the day-to-day operations, classes and monthly exhibits that routinely take place in the gallery, which is located at 21 West Loockerman Street in downtown Dover.

“The Board of Directors for the League made this decision for several reasons,” Ms. Jaudon said. “There has been a lot of changing of hands and transition of leadership and employees over the last few years. Some operational things have been lost or fell by the wayside during these transitions, at no fault of anyone’s, it just happens with multiple turnovers.

“At this point in time our leadership is all fairly new. We think this is the perfect time for some re-evaluating to rebuild the Art League’s business plan to better align with its mission statement again and for operations to be more efficient and streamlined.”

She added that, “The organization has been coasting for a while and we want it to grow, evolve and find its niche while still maintaining its core values and tradition.”

The Dover Art League will not completely disappear over the next several months.

Instead, First Friday openings will be replaced by a weekend indoor art fair to give local artists an opportunity to showcase their work and give patrons a chance to browse and shop.

The Writers, Artists, and Musicians (WAM) Cafe event will continue to take place the second Saturday of every month so that artists will be able to share their ideas, performance and art with one other.

The Dover Art League will also continue to have special events and fundraisers, like its upcoming collaborative masquerade event with the Schwartz Center in March.

“The one thing we want everyone to remember is there will still be opportunities to come to and participate with the Art League during this time,” Ms. Jaudon said. “Our doors aren’t being closed, they just won’t be open as often for a little while.”

Ms. Jaudon said that still maintaining a presence in the community throughout the DAL’s transition period is important.

“We do have a fairly small membership base, but the members we do have are very devoted and passionate and we felt like we, as an organization, were not matching their passion,” she said. “We have high hopes and big dreams for the Dover Art League and we will need to become more prevalent in the community to reach those without a doubt.

“However, this decision (to scale back) really is more about operations. It is for us to become a stronger organization for our existing members, be better equipped to welcome new members and become a staple in the community at large.”

According to Ms. Jaudon, the biggest challenge facing the organization is manpower. She is hoping the transition will unveil answers that will allow everything run smoother and will make it easier to recruit more volunteers and board members.

Ms. Jaudon said that she has been informed of miscommunications between the Art League and community members in the past.

“There may be some people that are reading this that are thinking, ‘But I asked to volunteer and nobody contacted me,’” she said. “We’ve heard this a lot.

“We are truly sorry for what happened in the past before this current leadership team and that type of miscommunication is what we are hoping to avoid moving forward. We want to get people plugged in and engaged right away.”

The Dover Art League anticipates relaunching with an updated brand and identity for itself in mid-summer or early fall. That vision remains a work in progress.

Ms. Jaudon said she believes the local artists seem to support the changes that will be taking place.

“So far I would say the general response has been very positive,” said Ms. Jaudon. “Our announcement has been met with understanding, support and excitement. We have been stagnant as an organization for a while. I think everyone involved is ready for some growth and changes.”

Ms. Jaudon added that it’s important to realize that this is not the end of the Dover Art League, rather, it’s just the beginning of an entirely new journey.

“We have talented, ambitious people involved with the Art League right now,” she said. “There are innovative ideas being thrown around, we just have to start figuring out how to implement them.

“The whole reason we are doing this is because we foresee a bright future for the Art League, but we think a reset and a little push are needed to get us there.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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