2009 Conference Review

Arriving in northern Maine for our 2009 annual Meeting, we were greeted by the wide and beautiful St. John River, forested mountain slopes, the lovely town of Fort Kent, and the neat-as-a-pin campus of the University of Maine. That was just the start of what proved to be an excellent week of great scenery, delicious food, well-appointed dorm rooms, informative and fascinating talks, workshops, presentations, and field trips, camaraderie and laughter. Our thanks go out to Joan Lee and all of her committee people for a job very well done! And we send our special gratitude to the people and staff of the university for their warm and gracious to all of us; they went above and beyond the “call of duty” and made us feel truly welcome and comfortable.

The Week

As conference attendees began to arrive on Sunday and check in, the GNSI Board of Directors met all day and covered the nitty-gritty of Guild business. We tossed around some great ideas and a few are already in the works; we'll keep you informed as we try them out and make progress. Sunday evening's traditional Portfolio sharing was as much fun as ever, as we enjoyed the opportunity to see each other's work, and say hello to friends old and new.

Monday morning we gathered for the keynote speech. UMFK President Dr. Richard Cost welcomed us warmly and regaled us with a short and entertaining history of the Fort Kent area and its residents. Following Dr. Cost, our keynote speaker, Dr. Steven Hansen, delivered a fascinating discourse on the predator/prey balance between moose and wolves on Isle Royale, in Michigan's Lake Superior. I'm sure we all came away with a new respect for the impact of moose ticks and climate change on animal populations. Some came away a bit itchy, as Dr. Hansen's video of the moose tick life cycle was memorable!

After our group photo and lunch, and on through Wednesday afternoon we enjoyed a great lineup of presentations and mini-workshops. Topics ranged from business issues to traditional and digital techniques, illustration history and interpretation. Our Techniques Showcase featured a number of demonstrations by GNSI members, and this year included two area artists and craftspeople, a traditional weaver and spinner and a wildlife artist/photographer.

The 2009 Auction, definitely our liveliest event, took place Tuesday evening in the Sports Center. This is an evening where most anything can happen, but where we are sure to raise impressive amounts for the GNSI Education fund with the more than generous support of all of our members. This year was no exception, with a rousing round of both silent and live auction spending on an amazing assortment of donated items, from moose antlers to antique medical charts, great art supplies, original art and jewelry. (I will leave the description of the crocheted item for another time!) Our auction total this year was $4973! Hearty thanks to our generous members who donated and/or purchased items.

The Business Meeting (now renamed Members' Meeting to better reflect its purpose and focus) was held during the lunch hour on Wednesday, and a number of topics key to our members were discussed and voted on. We discussed ways to increase membership by upgrading the newsletter content and updating the web site; increase in the price of the Guild Handbook starting Jan. 1, 2010; Orphan Works and the ASIP's efforts to fight it; the Legacy Project, and a vote on splitting the auction money 50/50 between the General and Education Funds. Minutes from this meeting will be published in the December newsletter issue; feel free to contact me if you would like more details on any of these issues, or which to discuss any issue or topic and share your ideas; we want your input and suggestions.

Wednesday evening featured the opening of our annual exhibit, at the Acadian Archives in the Blake Library. This warm and intimate venue was a great place to view the impressive display of our member's work. This year featured three separate exhibits, our normal Scientific Illustration exhibit, plus Fine Arts and Published Works exhibits. The exhibit reception was lovely and we thank the Library and Acadian Archives staff for their hospitality.

Thursday dawned clear blue and sunny, just in time for field trips! One group headed across the border to New Brunswick and Le Jardin Botanique du Nouveau for a tour of the gardens there. Others spent their day in workshops studying watercolor, plein air pastel drawing , After Effects and Photoshop, and silverpoint, or just touring the beautiful countryside.

The first-rate food service staff transformed the cafeteria into a lovely setting for our banquet, complete with table linens, delicious wines, and an excellent Acadian Feast. We enjoyed the Acadian feast menu, which was excellently prepared and featured fresh, local foods. While we dined, we enjoyed traditional music by Les Chanteurs Acadiens.

Following dinner, awards and thank-you's took center stage: I was pleased to present the Special Projects Award to Britt Griswold, GNSI Vice President and indefatigible volunteer, an honor he richly deserves. Yours Truly was deeply honored to receive the Distinguished Service Award, presented by Gretchen Halpert, GNSI past president. I also had the pleasure of presenting a bracelet and our thanks to Gretchen for all her years of service to the Guild, and wish her well as she takes a much-deserved break from GNSI activities — most of them anyway! Gretchen will still be involved in several GNSI projects. I was also pleased to introduce our incoming president, Suzanne Wegener, and announce the location of our 2010 conference, North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C. The 2010 host, Susan Shirley, introduced herself and her committee, and welcomed us all to Raleigh. I was then pleased to hand out gift certificates and our thanks to all the wonderful people who donated time and effort toward presentations and mini-workshops, or who otherwise contributed so much to the success of this conference. After the "business" part of the evening, we just enjoyed mingling and exchanging our ATC (Artist's Trading Cards), a fun new tradition we hope will continue in future conferences.

Friday morning once again dawned clear and sunny, good news for the canoe trip participants, who enjoyed a 17-mile ride on the scenic Allagash River under the watchful eye of the Allagash Guide Service. Workshops beckoned others: ink moist-brush technique, creating scientific designs on leather, Flash animation, and plant morphology. Friday ended, and Saturday morning began, with moose watch field trips, again led by guide Sean Lizotte. Several moose were sighted, along with a variety of other wildlife.

On Sean's recommendation, dinner "on the town" Friday night took many of us to nearby Saint Agatha and the LakeviewRestaurant, where we enjoyed the gorgeous view of Long Lake from the terrace, and a delicious dinner (the Lazy Man's Lobster is highly recommended if you ever go!).

We said farewell to UMFK, Fort Kent, and northern Maine after a great week. Packing up and saying goodbye are always hard, but we are already looking forward to meeting up again next year in Raleigh!