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Madison Art Society Selects New Leader, Aims for Togetherness at New Show

Published Oct. 09, 2019

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With a new president at the helm, the Madison Art Society is kicking off a new era with a show at the Guilford Free Library running through Wednesday, Oct. 30, with a reception at the library on Sunday, Oct. 13.

Hillary Griffin is taking the reins of the 43 year-old organization that boasts around 250 members, and said she is hoping to build off the legacy of her predecessors while also injecting fresh energy into the society’s programs.

“The art society has been amazing, and it’s been a force on the shoreline,” said Griffin. “But let’s even add to that, let’s bring more people into it.”

Some of Griffin’s new ideas will be on display this Sunday, as she helps put together an event that will be adding some new twists to what the society has done in the past.

“I’m going very much out of my way to expand a little bit beyond what we normally do,” said Griffin.

While inviting Madison officials and dignitaries is a common practice, Griffin said for this show she is also reaching out to many of Guilford’s elected officials and town leaders to join.

Griffin said she was inspired to do this in part because elections and politics can be divisive. She said she hoped to get in touch with both Republican and Democratic town committees, and bring candidates and officials from both parties to an environment where perhaps simple enjoyment of art could act to calm some of the contentiousness of politics. Griffin said she also saw it as an opportunity for townsfolk to interact with candidates.

“I figured, hey, it is an election upcoming. So if people are out just trying to meet people, trying to get their own names out there, as long as they appreciate our art, they are certainly welcome to come,” she said. “I always look for ways to bring people together.”

Griffin said she is also hoping to invite interior decorators, gallery owners, and designers from the area who might be interested in purchasing paintings.

Griffin was named president this past week. She has lived in Madison for 15 years, and is a former teacher and mostly self-taught artist who had previously served as the society’s board in other roles. When the two-year term of the previous president, Marge Casey, expired, after some consideration Griffin decided to take on the somewhat “daunting task” of leadership.

The society had struggled to fill the position of vice president over the last year or so, Griffin said, leaving no heir apparent to Casey. Griffin had not seen herself as the kind of person to step into that role, but said that being able to advance the mission of the society, and use her talents and abilities to promote art along the shoreline made her willing to take on the challenge.

“I just want to help,” she said. “If I can help improve the organization, let me lend a hand, if possible.”

Not having any vice president left the future of the society in doubt for a brief period during this last year, Griffin said. She said that there was even a “very, very brief moment” where the society discussed merging with another art organization, possibly in Guilford or Clinton.

“It was a fleeting thought, because honestly we’ve always been a very strong, very active art organization,” said Griffin. “So we knew that that really shouldn’t happen, wouldn’t need to happen.”

Griffin is being joined by two co-vice presidents, Jeanne O’Brien and Cheryl Sorensen, who she said will be a large part of keeping the society moving forward and bringing new ideas to the table.

Expansion seems to be a theme in the early stages of Griffin’s presidency, as she said she had plenty more ideas and events to help the society reach more people and grow. At the same time, though, Griffin emphasized that she was very aware of the legacy she was stepping into, and the big shoes of both Casey as well as Casey’s predecessor, Beverly Schirmeier, that she will need to fill.

But an organization is always more than one person or even a handful, according to Griffin.

“It’s actually not about one person stepping up at all. There are many people right now who are all agreeing, ‘Let’s do this together,’” she said.

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