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2011 Conference Report

SAMA’s 10th Annual American Mosaic Summit Report

The Society of American Mosaic Artists held its 10th annual conference February 17-21, 2011 in the welcoming host community of Austin, Texas. Over 450 members from around the world, the largest attendance at a SAMA conference to date came together in an atmosphere of conviviality, friendship, and renewal. The Austin Mosaic Guild volunteers did an outstanding job in putting on a very impressive event. Attendees left with many new friends, increased knowledge about their chosen art form, and heavier suitcases than they arrived with.

There were two days of pre-conference workshops that included such illustrious instructors as Ilana Shafir, Emma Biggs, and Sonia King, as well as a 2-day Mosaic Marathon. This year’s marathon was a beautiful leaf shaped triptych by Suzan Germond that has been installed on the PeopleFund building in Austin. The leaves incorporate the logo of the organization and are realized in beautiful shades of green Mexican Smalti. The Marathon was made possible by Smalti.com, LATICRETE International, and Perdomo Smalti.

The opening conference event on Thursday evening was the popular Mosaic Art Salon and Welcome Mixer. The Mosaic Art Salon was a huge hit with a profusion of bidding wars that resulted in many pieces sold. The event took place on the top floor of the hotel overlooking the city of Austin and was packed with bidders and artists, all viewing and discussing the beautiful and compelling work in the auction.

Friday began with the Members’ Annual General Meeting. Dawnmarie Zimmerman, SAMA’s Executive Director, and members of the SAMA Board of Trustees delivered reports on the work that goes on year-round to make SAMA an excellent organization. SAMA has been facing many of the same challenges that non-profits across the country are dealing with in this economy; decreased funding, increased expenses and the need to make sometimes difficult decisions in order to keep SAMA vibrant and sustainable for our members.

Dawnmarie announced that the SAMA Legacy Fund has been renamed the Bill Buckingham Legacy Fund in tribute to one of our most active members. Bill was a board member, vendor, webmaster, and all around SAMA champion who tragically lost his life this past year. An acknowledgment of the renaming of the Fund in his honor was provided to his life partner, Michael Welch. Many tears were shed as Michael accepted the acknowledgment from the podium.

Shug Jones, SAMA Board of Trustees President discussed the greening of Groutline into its’ new ejournal format. In addition to being more environmentally responsible, it reduces the hefty costs required to produce Groutline. Benefits to members include the ability to click on links in the articles. Groutline can also be downloaded and printed if desired. Everyone will now receive it at the same time instead of at the whim of the post office delivery system.

Yvonne Allen, SAMA Board of Trustees Secretary, announced that Karin Gerstenhaber is this year’s recipient of SAMA’s Volunteer of the Year award. Yvonne spoke of the dedication of all of SAMA’s volunteers throughout the year. SAMA operates on a mostly volunteer basis (Dawnmarie is the only full time staff member and Chris Forillo works as our part time Operations Manager). She encouraged members to participate in one of the very active committees who work hard behind the scenes to make SAMA a great organization.

Ed Kinsella was voted in as the newest member of SAMA’s Board of Trustees during the meeting. Ed is from Massachusetts and brings a wealth of skills to the team. Ed will serve as Chair of the Sponsorship Committee, taking over from Sharon Plummer.

Gwyn Kaitis, Board of Trustees Vice President, presented the highlights of the new SAMA Marketing Plan, which was developed in collaboration with the Arts & Business Council and a team of Business Volunteers for the Arts. The plan will assist SAMA in advancing mosaics within the broader arts community; increasing public awareness of the vast scope of mosaic arts; and to expand our public relations efforts outside of the annual conference and exhibition at venues such as SOFA Chicago. One of the initial goals is to produce a slide show that SAMA members’ can use to provide presentations on contemporary mosaic art in their local communities.

Karen Ami, President Emeritus and Exhibitions Chair, discussed Mosaic Arts International at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center this year. Karen and Advisory Board member Kim Emerson discussed possible future conference venues. No decision has yet been made for the 2012 conference site. It will be announced as soon as the location is determined. Karen also talked about the more than 1,000,000 visitors who have seen the mosaics on exhibit at Navy Pier since they were installed for last year’s MAI. We are gaining great exposure to the general public for our art form with the continuation of mosaics in the Contemporary Mosaic Annex, now operated under the auspices of the Chicago Mosaic School.

Julie Dilling, Board member and Chair of the Scholarship committee reported on the Robin Brett Scholarship Fund and this past year’s recipient, Deb Aldo. Kim Emerson read a report from 2009 scholarship winner Luz Mack. Sharon Plummer reported on the funds raised during the sponsorship drive and explained the various aspects of the conference that are underwritten by these generous SAMA supporters.

The conference included a Vendor’s Marketplace with many businesses present that SAMA members patronize throughout the year and some businesses new to our community. Attendees were able to see an abundance of material, tools, and products that can be used in mosaic art. By many reports from both attendees and vendors, the Marketplace was very successful this year.

Presentations during the conference included the keynote given by delightful Pamela Irving of Australia. She shared her personal vision of her art and described the process that goes into her large public art installations. She even acknowledged that she is the largest collector of Mickey Mouse memorabilia in Australia. Other presentations included a screening of a film about artist El Anatsui whose stunning work closely resembles mosaic; a panel discussion on community built mosaics; Sophie Drouin showed us how to use Dalle de Verre, and Gary Drostle told us about the trials and tribulations he and his artist assistants faced as he completed the large scale mural “River of Life” which is included in the Mosaic Arts International exhibition this year. A panel discussion “Defining Mosaic Fine Art-Who Cares and Why?” started a dialogue about our chosen art form that will no doubt continue to generate discussion for some time to come.

A reception at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center showcased MAI, the annual SAMA exhibition. This year’s Best of Show went to Yulia Hanansen for “Red Spot”; Sophie Drouin won Best Two-Dimensional for “Evanescence”, Julie Richey won Best Three-Dimensional for “La Corrente, and Kim Schonfeld won Best Architectural for “Eternity Revisited”. Juror’s Choice winners included Laurel True, Lenni Gilbert, and Drucilla Perez-Tubens. Michael Kruzich won Member’s Choice for “Miss Anita Cocktail”.

A happy Anne Simms of Texas, attending her very first conference, won the grand prize in the raffle: a trip to the Perdomo School in Cuernavaca, Mexico donated by Smalti.com and Perdomo Smalti Mosaicos Bizantinos.

Attendees danced to a live band at the closing party and said goodbye to old and new friends until next year when we convene once again to share, network, learn and enjoy a great time with our fellow artists and mosaic businesses.

Click to Download PDF of Rhonda Heisler’s El Anatsui Presentation handout.

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