The Ventura County Arts Council strives to increase community access to the arts while providing professional development and exhibiting opportunities for all artists. So it’s no wonder that Executive Director Margaret Travers saw an immediate connection with the National Arts Program® when she learned about the program.
Margaret, who has been coordinating the NAP show for Ventura County since they joined the program in 2002, has a strong commitment to the local community and it shows. Each year she continues to grow the programs reach by increasing her participation numbers, exhibiting nearly 200 pieces of artwork from county employees and their family members. Here is what Margaret has to say when we asked her about the program…
Q. What makes the National Arts Program® different than any other art exhibit put on by the Ventura Arts Council?
A. I would say that the main difference is that we have many more entries in the employee show than in any of our other shows. All of our other exhibits are defined by a theme and the entries are selected based on how well they meet that criteria. Also all but one of our other exhibits are limited to adult artists. We have one exhibit that is held as part of a scholarship program for high school seniors who wish to go on to advanced studies in the visual arts.
Q. Why do you feel that displaying employee artwork is important?
A. Our Board is proud of the partnership we have with our county - the Board of Supervisors, administration and staff. We are pleased to be able to offer this opportunity for the employees and their families to show their creative side by entering their work in the show. And we have certainly found that the premise upon which the National Arts Program® was founded holds true - there is a lot of creative talent in our public employees! In fact some of our outstanding professional artists are in the employee show because their spouse is employed by the county.
Q. How have employees and their families responded to the opportunity to display their artwork?
A. As soon as this show comes down the employees start planning what they will enter in next year's show. They love it - and very much look forward to the opportunity it gives them to show off their creative specialty.
Q. Why do you think displaying artwork in the government setting is so important?
A. The Atrium Gallery at the Ventura County Government Center Hall of Administration is the most visible exhibit space in our county - and we have a very active visual arts community in all parts of our county. The great value of our space in the Hall of Administration is that it exposes such a large number of our residents to the arts while they are doing business with the County. This is particularly true with the children who accompany their parents. We know that many of our visitors would not make a visit to an art gallery or museum, not because they would not want to, but many would be intimidated thinking they need special knowledge or experience. This way they can look without any pressure.
Q. What is your favorite aspect of the National Arts Program®?
A. It is a lot of work to hang a show with so many entries. The part that makes it so rewarding is the reception when we are able to announce the award winners and the employees who have special performing talents add their special touch to the event.
Q. Do visitors to the government building respond to the employee exhibit?
A. Visitors and employees always make a point of commenting on how much they enjoy having the art in the public spaces. This is true for our entire annual series of shows. Each changing exhibit is looked forward to with great anticipation.
Q. How has utilizing online registration made the process easier for you?
A. The online process was wonderful. It has always been a challenge to get all of the information right - names, titles, and especially e-mail addresses - from the handwriting on the paper forms. It is really great that the information can be easily downloaded as an Excel file.
Q. Can you tell us how art has had a positive impact on your personal life?
A. The arts have always been my life. My parents made sure that my brothers and I experienced them all as participants or as members of the audience. When it was time to choose a career path, the question was "which" art discipline would I follow.
Q. How did you get started in the art field or have you always been involved in the arts? Are you an artist yourself?
A. I received a BS in Design from the University of Michigan School of Architecture and Design (these days the art school is separate). I taught art, worked in the engineering department of another university plotting data on graphs, and finally doing graphic design for a publisher and as a self-employed consultant. However, in 1999 when I accepted the position as the Executive Director of the Ventura County Arts Council, I found my niche. I love it!
Q. Is there anything else you want to add? Comments about the program, etc.
A. We are grateful to the National Arts Program® for giving us a way to directly serve the public entity with which we are closely aligned. As an independent 501(c)3 nonprofit public benefit organization, and local partner of the California Arts Council, we are not a part of our county government, but we have been the recipients of a very supportive relationship with our county administration and staff. And facilitating the county employee art show gives us a way to demonstrate our collaboration.