To learn more about the decision to scrap the 2011 GAS conference in Tuscon, Arizona, officially announced on May 7th, the Hot Sheet interviewed GAS executive director Pamela Koss. Among the new information she provided is that the new date for the 2011 conference announced Friday evening — June 9th to 11th — may be moved so as not to conflict with the 2011 GlassWeekend. Clearly this remains very much a developing situation. Read all her emailed responses to our questions below.
GLASS: Has there ever been a change of location in the GAS conference in its 40 years of existence?
Pamela Koss: Not to my knowledge.
GLASS: Is there a short list of places being considered for the new venue?
Pam: There have been several suggestions coming in since the announcement was made. There is not much time to put together a conference of this size so there are many questions to be answered before a city can be considered. I have done some preliminary work to find alternatives but nothing is official yet.
GLASS: The release hinted that immigration issues and the new Arizona law played a role in the decision. How much of a factor was this? Was it the number one or number two reason behind the decision?
Pam: The negative financial picture for the organization was number one. Certainly the law brought into question whether members of countries south of the US border or members that don’t support the law would attend at all. Mexico has issued a travel warning to its citizens to not travel to Arizona. Attendees are making very personal choices when they attend a conference. The more there is to deter people, the less attendees we would have. GAS needed that participation to have the conference be successful. The board does know that our membership is very sensitive to political issues as we found in Portland when a labor issue caused people not to stay at the conference hotel. That decision by members cost GAS and the budget.
GLASS: What would have happened, in your and the board’s opinion, if you had not made this major decision? What impact would going ahead with Tuscon have had on GAS?
Pam: It was a very difficult decision for the GAS Board to make. Both GAS and Tucson invested a lot of time and money into this effort. From its inception, GAS as an organization has been supported and exists almost entirely from revenue generated from membership and income from the conference. If the GAS membership goes down or the conference is low in attendance, it puts the organization at risk. If the city was not able to raise the money necessary and if the numbers were low as we expected, it would have been financially devastating to the Glass Art Society. We run a very lean organization as it is, we need people to attend the conferences and keep their membership current to keep us solvent. We are going to need additional funds from membership and donors. The GAS board is examining this and how we can prevent situation from happening in the future.
GLASS: Is there anything the folks in Tucson could have done better that might have led to a different outcome? Was there any individual or organization that might have done more to promote and support GAS’s efforts?
Pam: The glass community in Tucson did a great job working on the conference. Their community as a whole is feeling the affects of the law, as of last week, 21 conferences have cancelled from the state of Arizona. The city’s economy is struggling and the local committee’s ability to raise money was certainly impaired by that.
GLASS: How will the move affect the 2011 conference’s scheduled events and themes?
Pam: That is still to be determined. Currently we are surveying the presenters that were chosen for 2011 and checking to see if they are still available for the new dates. Just in the early feedback, we found that June 9-11, 2011 conflicts with GlassWeekend at Wheaton. We are working now to pick another weekend in June of 2011.