Oceania Group finished 2013 stronger in terms of numbers and with a creative sense of collective belonging that continued to develop throughout the year. Our co-representative Lisa Walton took up duties as a SAQA Board member, while Susie Cujes took up representative duties from October. Our membership grew to 107 thanks to enthusiastic promotion of SAQA by many of our teaching members during the membership drive that largely consumed 2013. Other members including Brenda Gael Smith and Kate Oszko took on support roles that helped share the representative responsibilities.
Again we faced the challenge of geographic disbursement, with Oceania region covering a land mass the size of the entire United States of America! Staying in touch requires a commitment to communicate – whether that’s through the monthly Oceania newsletter, face to face get-togethers or leveraging of events to create such an opportunity (exhibitions, quilt shows, conferences). Our MOB (Members of Brisbane) meet on the first Saturday of the new season at the Queensland Art Gallery Café.
Jenny Bowker took on the role of coordinating the Oceania contributions for SAQA’s Benefit Auction. More than thirty quilts comprised the Oceania collection and we conducted a blog hop in the two months leading up to the auction, sharing how each artist had been inspired to create their piece. As many SAQA members will have seen, showcasing the collection in Houston before the auction was a great way to promote both Oceania and SAQA more generally. We even gained an Australian member who signed up in Houston!
Major quilt shows follow a regular, annual circuit around Australia and New Zealand with a number of our teaching / shop-owner members attending these events. Lisa was able to organise SAQA catch-ups during these shows. A particularly memorable evening was an impromptu post-show dinner with SAQA members from several states and Judy Coates Perez –sharing food, laughter and creative space at Brisbane’s Southbank.
Throughout 2013 I accompanied the “This is a Quilt” exhibition to many of its exhibition venues around the country and had the pleasure and thrill of meeting members who, until then, had been Facebook friends or email correspondents. A tap on the shoulder in Newcastle, a member who flew nearly 5000kms to surprise me in Perth and help spread the SAQA word, another who travelled almost as far to spend a day at the SAQA stand in Adelaide – that same member drove 300 kms (180 miles) round trip just to pick me up from one venue and have an opportunity to “get together” travelling in her car while on our way to another city– I never cease to be surprised and grateful for the generosity of spirit and support, on so many levels, of my fellow SAQA members.
“This is a Quilt” Trunk Show C was a highlight as it toured almost all States in Australia and twice crossed the Tasman Sea to New Zealand. From May to November the exhibition was seen by thousands at major quilt shows as well as travelling to individual guilds and quilt groups.
There were many challenges throughout the year – one of which being the growth in our membership. Our active recruitment has seen a doubling of membership in just over two years and a challenge to meet the needs of all levels of experience and interest in art quilts. This is an ongoing challenge and one that requires a constant “emotional renegotiation” of what we offer as a group and organisation, especially how we support those members who are starting their art quilt love affair/ journey, while continuing to be relevant to all our membership.
Another significant challenge is a wonderful problem to have! SAQA offers so many opportunities information, support and resources that many members express the view that they simply were not aware of all that SAQA has to offer. To better address that, our monthly newsletter will now include a section that explains a different part of the SAQA website or unpacks a different resource and provides an overview and link – our mission is education and we need to start in our own back yard!
We have big ideas for 2014 including progress towards approval of a SAQA Oceania exhibition in 2015/16 and establishing an OMG! (Oceania Mentorship Group). As always, it is our membership that provides the spark and motivation – their continued support and encouragement is the strength of Oceania.
Ali George, Oceania Co-Rep