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Guild member looks to back up league festival plans

By Kathy Prucnell, Islander Reporter

Anna Maria Island Art League president Laura McGeary waits May 29 at the league gallery, 5312 Holmes Blvd., Holmes Beach, for artists to collect their work. Islander Photo: Kathy Prucnell

Bradenton artist Art Olsen displays “Rhapsody,” one of his entries in Creative Color, the Anna Maria Island Art League’s May exhibit at the Holmes Beach gallery, 5312 Holmes Blvd. Only about half of the artists had picked up work last week from the show of 56 entries and 35 artists.

Amid troubles leading to the closure of the Anna Maria Island Art League, another Holmes Beach art organization is signaling its willingness to take on the annual league-sponsored Winterfest.

    City officials report the Artists’ Guild of Anna Maria Island has requested the city field Dec. 8 and Dec. 9 if the field becomes available. It’s a “back-up reservation,” according to deputy clerk Lori Kee.

    “I wanted to protect those dates for a not-for-profit,” said Joan Voyles of the Artists’ Guild of Anna Maria Island, adding she’s taken no steps beyond the initial inquiry for the Guild and “any coalition of artists” who would possibly seek the city field for these dates.

    “But if they fall apart, it’s a protective thing,” she said. Voyles also noted Winterfest has been a successful juried art festival and she’d like to see it continue.

    League president Laura McGeary said she’s “not surprised” by the guild’s request, but says the league is not giving up Winterfest.

    “A call to artists” advertising for Winterfest and Springfest, was placed in the May edition of Sunshine Artist, a trade publication for art and craft shows, she said.

    But Colin Bissett of Palm Harbor, who was hired by the league to organize Winterfest 2011 and Springfest 2012, blames McGeary for the league’s problems. He said he resigned in March without giving the notice required by his contract because of a lack of financial reporting and hostility within the league for his decisions.

    “I believe they ran out of money. How can that be with two successful art shows?” asked Bissett.

    McGeary said proceeds from Winterfest 2011 were “considerably less” than the previous year, even accounting for the half-day rainout, although Springfest was better.

    “Insufficient volunteers” impacted the festival and the bottom line, according to McGeary.

    McGeary previously alleged some work performed by volunteers in the past was paid for under Bissett’s direction. Those increased costs resulted in reduced income for the league, she said.

    But Bissett says “after 20-25 years of history, it’s died,” of the art league festival tradition. “It needs somebody like the guild.”

    The league’s former executive director, Christina Reginelli, resigned May 11, but first canceled the kids’ summer camp, classes and workshops, saying there was “no money to cover the instructors and no one available to supervise.” She also posted the “closed” sign at the league facility, 5312 Holmes Blvd.

    McGeary maintains the closure is temporary.

    Reginelli also says she is owed back pay.

    And McGeary agrees. She said getting Reginelli paid is one reason for fundraising at this time. McGeary has sought $25-$100 donations from the community by June 16 to keep the league afloat. Last week she said she had received several “nice calls” and donations.

    Bissett further questions the league’s ability to solicit donations.

    She says the league can continue to accept donations and that it has maintained its Florida nonprofit corporation while she and others work to reinstate the IRS tax-exempt status.

    McGeary says the revocation of the IRS designation as a nonprofit was an “inherited” problem that was due to the league’s past failure to file three years of returns before her term as president.

    “We had an accountant and a director” at the time the tax returns went missing, McGeary said. She added that the returns may have been prepared, but apparently were not properly filed.

    “We started trying to resolve it when we became aware of it” in June 2011, when the league received a letter from the IRS, McGeary said.

    “We think we’re really close,” she said of the reinstatement effort.

    While Bissett and some former board members point to the IRS problem as an indicator of a fiscal reporting problem, McGeary responds it does not impact the league’s ability to fund raise in small amounts.

    McGeary said it would only impact donations of $250 or more, and only if the donor requires a tax-exempt letter. It does not change the league’s nonprofit status, she said.

    “There are plenty of nonprofits out there that aren’t 501c3s,” she said.

    Two $500 donations were returned after the league learned of the revocation, she said.

    Former board member Leslie Robbins made a statement May 30 calling for an audit, asking that “past records of finances” be made public.

    Robbins was joined May 31 in a similar statement by former board members Karen Hasler, Alexis Lillis, Cheryl Jorgenson, Gillian Holt and Ellen Aquilina, as well as Reginelli.

    “Members of the art league and the community are owed some kind of disclosure regarding the finances. The art league has meant a lot to many people and to have it sink without explanation or accountability is tragic,” it stated.

    The league has a 22-year history on Anna Maria Island, showcasing local talent, offering art classes, camps and workshops. The festivals provide funding for the art center and its scholarship program.

    There are three remaining board members, Deeana Atkinson, Chris Galanopoulos and McGeary.

    At Islander press time, no financial information was available for review, although McGeary said she has information on four past festivals and the scholarships.

    McGeary said she is working with an accountant to resolve the league’s financial and IRS matters.

        She also said she was not yet prepared to schedule a general membership meeting or respond to former board members.

One Response to Guild member looks to back up league festival plans

  1. Gillian Holt says:

    Having just finished reading this article I question some of the comments made by McGeary. She said that insufficient volunteers impacted the festival and the bottom line. Being one of the volunteers at both festivals I know there was a full slate of people helping and additional people were not required. There was money made at both festivals and the question is where is it now?
    Financial records do need to be made public I believe.
    Gillian Holt

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