Donna Aldridge, international award-winning master pastelist and oil painter, fine artist, has work in collections in 25 countries and teaches painting workshops nationally and art classes in Kansas City.
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Ideas for New and Developing Pastel Societies

Written in 1999 at the request of several other forming pastel societies
by Donna Aldridge PSA M-MAPS. Several updates included as noted.

NOTE (3-3-2003): The MidAmerica Pastel Society was formed July 14, 1998 with 12 members. 124 members as of July 14, 1999 and beginning 2003 with over 180 members from many states in the heart land of America plus members in Mexico and Australia, as well as a sister pastel society, Pastel Artists of South Australia, with whom we have shared joint exhibits in both countries.

MAPS has several juried members-only shows each year at university, museum and professional galleries as well as other exhibition venues. We have a rich variety of programs at our well-attended meetings plus occasional social gatherings providing an opportunity to get to know each other better and to network.

Our plein air 'paint outs', held throughout the spring, summer and fall, are very popular. Our members also work in support of other art organizations in the community.

MAPS continues to grow and thrive with exciting events and opportunities for our members—which serve, as well, to enrich and educate the community.

We invite you to join us! Please visit our web site at

The MidAmerica Pastel Society has had a wonderful first year. We formed the organization with an intent to be of real service and inspiration to our fellow pastelists, to create a viable networking system and to serve the community through education. Here are some notes on issues and solutions we found that have worked for us and may work for you.

Dues: With much discussion of what we wanted to offer, we decided on $20.00 per calendar year, taking into account the greatest expense––postage and printing for a newsletter. While some organizations charge the dues from the time you join (and date your mailing label with the expiration date to help you track), we chose a Jan/Dec pattern, with all new members who joined in October or later having their membership apply from that time through the end of the following year.

Start-Up Funds: Since we were beginning with a treasury of zero and in mid-year, we established a Charter-Membership and a special Dues amount of $30.00 that would extend through the remaining 5.5 months of 1998 to the end of 1999. The Charter Membership sign-up period would end Dec. 31, 1998.

Any one joining after that date would be a ‘regular’ member at the ‘regular’ $20.00 Dues. This gave us a little extra money to work with in the beginning, which was very helpful and necessary. We will always make note of those very important members who are Charter members in thanks for their early support and enthusiasm!

Additional Funds—The Beginning of our Annual Small Painting Show: In September, we discussed ways to augment our small treasury. Suggestions such as garage sales were made, but we settled on a bold plan to hold a November small painting show, 8” X 10” maximum image, asking members to donate one or more framed painting to MAPS.

The Board voted to reimburse up to $35.00 for framing for any painting sold. Unsold paintings would be returned to the donating member. A gallery space was found. We printed invitations 4-up on 8.5” X 11” white card stock, with wording designed to attract buyers at many levels. (See below) It cost $130.00 to print 1000. We gave members 25 cards (more if desired) to mail. 50 members donated over 100 paintings. We sold 25% the opening night and many more in the next three weeks.

We had the largest attendance the gallery had ever had. It was fabulously crowded! Members were elated, even though no proceeds went to them. For many artists, it was their very first show. It was a wonderful experience. And MAPS netted $2624.00. It put us in a position to plan workshops, pay for out-of-town speakers, eventually make our Gallery T-Shirts and other things of service and enjoyment to our members and the community.

Annual Open Show: The November Show was so successful that we decided to make it a tradition, however, members will now receive 70% from sales. We’ve set the size of image wider, but we still plan to have a special area reserved for 8” X 10”s and smaller. We plan other Open Shows during the year.

Juried Show: We will eventually plan a juried show.

Signature Membership : This is something else we have discussed, but so far, our priorities have been on education, inspiration, painting opportunities and networking.
Update January 2003:

After long and careful consideration—Criteria for Signature and Master Pastelist.

Signature Membership: Attained by MAPS member having earned a total of five (5) points through acceptance by a Judge in at least five (5) different exhibitions as listed below and within any consecutive six year period . This six year period can begin with the artists' first submission beginning January 2002 or whenever a member wishes to start counting.
a) MAPS Members-Only Juried Exhibitions and Regional Juried Exhibitions (minimum of four state competition for regional exhibitions) count as 1/2 point each. The maximum for 1/2 points is a total of 2 whole points (i.e. 4 each 1/2 points)
b) National or International Juried Exhibitions accepting other mediums or those accepting pastel-only (80% soft pastel) count as one (1) point each.
c) At least two (2) points of the total five (5) points must be from a national or international pastel-only juried exhibition.

MAPS Master Pastelist: This level is attained by having three (3) paintings receiving a jurors award given in three different national or international exhibitions. Although the Signature status membership must be attained first, the awards may accumulate while gaining the signature status.

Sales venues (i.e. Festivals, Fairs, Galleries, etc.) will not be counted in this point system.

Programs: This is a very powerful force in an organization. As V-P/Program Chairman for MAPS and having served in that role in several other organizations, I’ve learned some useful things:

• Talk with members about what they’d like to see/hear.

• Plan a variety of subjects.

• If an interesting person will be in town for another event see if you can arrange for them to speak at your meeting for an honorarium, perhaps offering to open your home to them, when you could not afford their travel costs to bring them in at another time.

• Or work with another organization to plan either two separate programs in one day by the speaker, sharing travel fees, or one joint program, sharing all the fees. This has proven quite successful in a number of gardening organizations. We were able to have a number of out of town speakers––and it’s a great advantage to bring new voices into the community to broaden the ideas of members.

• And, of course, draw on your talented and experienced members, as well––and other accomplished artists in town.

• We recently had a guest speaker, John Martin, who is a renowned national portrait painter who works primarily in oil. He shared with us his approach to developing a portrait, working with the individual, photographing, lighting, studies, etc.—all things that are important in any painting medium. He had one of his rare pastels on hand, and the fact that pastel was not his prime medium did not seem to hamper the enthusiasm and wealth of useful knowledge our members gained. And it made him a bit more aware of pastels as a medium, seeing our great excitement with them! Note: John Martin returned again to present another very happily received program on portrait painting in January 2003!

Note: Another nationally-prominent painter, Dean Mitchell, best known for his stunning watercolors and now oil paintings has also presented a program for us. Carol Katchen, an exciting pastel painter and author from Arkansas, has also been a guest.

• Be as inventive as you can! You’ll love all those muscles you get to use being creative this particular way! And plan a question and answer session at the end of the program. That lets the members ask one-to-one questions of the guest and feel a more active participation in the event, getting information tailored to their needs––and usually interesting and useful to others as well who may not have thought quite that direction!

Note: We've had programs on framing, plein air painting, various pastel materials and techniques, setting up still lifes, lighting, what makes a painting a winner, round table presentations and discussions on several topics, slide presentations from both our professional-artist members and from those embracing pastel painting as enthusiastic lovers of the medium! We've learned from everyone!

Newsletter: Another very important item, even more so when you have members out-of-town as we do. First we designed a strong letterhead that is used on all our printing. It’s very helpful if you have a member with computer, design and writing skills.

We feature a letter from the President (occasionally from the V-P and other board and committee heads), notice of the next events in boxes across the bottom of the front page in 10% gray to highlight them, minutes of the previous meeting so that everyone has an opportunity to read them if they were unable to attend, Member News, show entry information, Studio Tips from time to time, biographies of upcoming speakers. Occasionally we use photos of our members at one of the painting-in-the-field days or of a speaker’s works, etc.

We include news from IAPS and other things that might be of use to our members. It’s very important that they experience the connection regularly. We sent a post card one month when we needed to get some information out quickly after a long newsletter. We used a triple fold because it give an extra third page for information Note: though now have gone to a single fold, providing more information on one side of the exterior for the now-more-plentiful events! We print the upcoming schedule with subject, date, location and time on one side of the exterior––letting it serve as a post card as well as a newsletter. We’ve had a lot of great feedback about the newsletter and feel it’s been an important piece for connecting our members.

Roster: Create and regularly update a roster for your members, including fax, email addresses and web sites. This really helps members connect with each other more easily. If you have a rapidly growing membership, this can be quite an effort, but it’s worth it to stay current. In MAPS, we’ve mailed ours out in the newsletter. Ours is set up to put in a three-ring binder, however there are many different ways to lay out a Roster. Note: We've gone to a booklet form, 5.5" x 8.5".

Painting in the Field: We organized a number of opportunities for members to paint landscapes together, hosted by two members whose homes are in the country, each in different directions from the city. We had pot-luck lunches and enjoyed painting all day. This motivates many to get out and paint who might not go alone. There is adventure, good company, safety––and indoor plumbing! Members got to know each other better. Our first host, a professional photographer, captured the painters on film and showed the slides at the next meeting where members had brought their paintings. In the newsletter the month before the first field painting, we featured an article about painting outdoors with tips from a veteran of many years of hiking into the wilds to paint.

Round Table Discussion: This fall we will have a Round Table Discussion on a broad number of issues that the pastel artist deals with––fixative: how and when to use, experimenting with different papers, making sanded paper or tinting purchased sanded paper, making your own pastels, promotion, framing issues, photographing your work and so many other issues––much like those covered here but using our own members and experienced people in the community.

Call for Ideas: Ask members continually for new ideas or needs they would like to see addressed. It’s very important for members to know they have a voice in their organization.

Spread the Duties: Often it seems easier to just do the work yourself, but there are several downsides to this. First, it lets the majority of the members feel on the outside, nose pressed against the window. It also lets the one or few doing the work burn out much sooner. Ask for volunteers. Call individuals and invite them to help with a particular project for which they have particular talents. Delegating responsibility is so important for the health of the organization.

Book of Procedures: Ask each officer and chairperson to make a record of procedures they employ in their job. This can be so helpful when new officers are elected. The transition is much smoother, easier on the people and the quality of service to members is easier to maintain at the same level.

Have fun: It’s very important to be well organized––and then you’ve got to have fun.

Best wishes to everyone !

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