Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Message from our National President

NLAPW Broch.Header
November 17, 2015

Dear Pen Women,

As we near the Thanksgiving holidays, I wanted to update you on a few things.  Whenever I visit branches, the first question is, "What is the latest on Pen Arts?"

The Latest On Pen Arts
The BOD (Board of Directors) met in October.  We all are very pleased that there is an open dialogue between National and our members.  We greatly value your feedback and concerns as we weigh the options before us.

Let me be very clear.  The issue of Pen Arts is not an easy one.  We have members who believe we should sell the building and re-structure our financial foundation in order to provide more member services.  With a decrease in members and finances and an increase in expenses to maintain our building, selling to some members is a "no brainer."  On the other hand, we have other members for whom Pen Arts represents a heritage we were given to steward.  To turn our back on it is difficult for them to consider.  The board is divided on the issue.  We have not had a formal vote to see if 2/3 of the board would vote to sell the building.    

Why not, you may ask?  Frankly, the timing has not been right.  Here's why...

Several interesting developments presented themselves relative to the Pen Arts issue:
  • OUR 14-YEAR TENANT RETIRED AND VACATED HIS OFFICE  Losing Architect Michael Holt at the end of October shifted us into a critical situation.  Financially speaking, we are losing some $2,000 month in rental income.  Because NLAPW does not have a zoning exemption to rent out office space, we cannot go and round up another tenant.  In and of itself, this puts us in an even more dire financial picture.
  • COULD HIS LEAVING BE AN OPPORTUNITY FOR NLAPW TO EXPAND??  We began to consider a positive side to this:  What if we converted this office into a multipurpose educational suite to hold workshops and master classes, not only for members who want to come stay at Pen Arts and grow professionally, but also as outreach programming for the community?  
  • THE DUPONT CIRCLE COMMUNITY IS ACTIVELY RAISING FUNDS FOR US & WANTS US TO STAY  Pen Arts ended up being the "star" during October's Dupont Circle Citizen's Association House Tour.  Our BOD members spent days cleaning Pen Arts: washing drapes, re-staining the front door, wiping down window sills, polishing silver and washing windows we could reach.  It totally was a group effort...YOUR BOARD in action! Crowds poured into Pen Arts and were greeted by board members giving mini-tours on what NLAPW is all about.  A special treat was hearing our own Vinnie Ream expert Maureen SappĂ©y amaze guests with stories of our beloved member who is featured so prominently in the Vinnie Ream Room. Maureen is a born storyteller!
  • Several groups are actively raising money for us.  Most prominently, TENAC (DC Tenants' Advocacy Coalition) founded by friend of the League, Jim McGrath.  Also, the Tabard Inn Hotel has expressed interest in holding a fundraiser and tomorrow I meet with still others wanting to help us.
  • The DCCA is holding their meeting in Pen Arts on Dec. 7 featuring popular Ward 2 Council Member Jack Evans.  They are expecting some 60 people.
To be honest, we have to consider the efforts our neighbors are expending to keep us here.  The timing is just not right for us to say, "Forget your contributions....we are going to sell the building!"  

Successful Pen Arts DC Garden Tour Event
NLAPW Art Chair Sandy Huff recently field-tested a new Pen Arts week-long prototype:  a "Pen Arts - DC Garden Tour"!   Sandy and 3rd VP Meletha Everett worked hard to put together this exciting event.  Pen Arts was booked for an entire week and attendees enjoyed an expertly-crafted guided tour of popular DC Gardens, interspersed with educational workshops and fun activities at Pen Arts in the evenings.  Feedback has been marvelous.

Kudos to Sandy for her vision for Pen Arts-DC Events featuring the Arts!  It was a money-maker for the League and now gives us a template to work from in planning similar events.
Answered Prayer?
It may not be politically correct, but it must be said:  We must consider the possibility that God is answering our prayers for direction in ways we did not expect:  A bequest....a large outpouring of community unexpected new vision for enlarging our footprint in the DC community. Could it be that the NLAPW is being called once again to be a forerunner in impacting our culture through Purpose-Driven Art?!

What Happens Next
Prior to our January BOD meeting, I will be fleshing out the financial projections of what it would take to convert the Holt office into an educational suite and what this "vision" could look like.  It is exciting to consider the possibilities of presenting cutting edge Arts programming to address the many needs in the communities we serve.

Please share this with your members.  We have much to be thankful for this season! 

Candace Long
National League of American Pen Women

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