On the Death of an Organization

I’d never killed off an organization before.

I’ve written a lot over the last two months about it, for various purposes. Press releases, statements, questions needing answered; “What happened?”

This whole time it felt like this was what needed to be done. The consensus agreed. We had a plan. It was time to execute the plan.

I’m always that person that gets hooked on a show right before it gets canceled. I’ll be into it, “oh this is the coolest thing ever!” and then boom. It gets the axe. This has been a multi-decade pattern, going back to getting hooked on Northern Exposure right before its demise. Thank God for syndication…

My history with the Indianapolis Downtown Artists and Dealers Association (IDADA) has been a funny one. It started in around 2004 (as I’ve seemed to have had to write about extensively lately), about the same time that I was gearing up for my career, preparing to graduate college, already landing my first non-retail “real” job. Where the hell was I at?

Who knows, but for Seasons 1-9, I had no idea what was going on. I knew that First Friday was a thing (for a good chunk of that time, I did have to work during First Fridays, and it’s not like you can DVR a city-wide event). Somewhere around Season 7, I started actively and regularly showing art in Indianapolis, participating in First Friday events, and gradually figuring out there was this organization called IDADA and joining it seemed to be the thing to do. Meanwhile, Super Bowl XLVI hit Indy, and this IDADA was putting together an installation show called “Turf.” I’m not an installation artist, and Super Bowl preps had taken over my life, so I just gave them a thumbs-up from afar.

Season 10 premiered.

I had been asked to start attending the monthly IDADA board meetings by Dan Haynes, the owner of the gallery I was managing at the time. Sometimes I feel like it was a bait-and-switch move, jokingly of course, but being an artist representative for a board of something sounded like a good idea.

I’d never been on a board of anything. I skipped out of Key Club (my circle of friends would joke it was some kind of cult) in high school. I didn’t know what Robert’s Rules of Order were. I’m still not entirely sure what they are. I’m a do-er and I’m not shy of asking questions. If I didn’t know what was happening in the meeting, I’d ask for a clarification. Next thing I knew, I was being asked to be the vice president.


This had happened to me before. I signed up for the University of Indianapolis newspaper, as a staff photographer, to sharpen my photography skills while I waited for an opening in the Applied Television class. Then my professor discovered I could write. (heh) I got cajoled into the Feature Editor position. Then the Photography Editor had a nervous breakdown (or something) over Christmas break and never returned. Then the Editor-In-Chief and Managing Editor were graduating, and, all of a sudden, I’m learning the definition of “heir-apparent.” And all I’d wanted to do was take some pictures.

I didn’t kill off the newspaper though. It’s still thriving. They’re doing great.

In the fall of 2013, I’m voted in as vice president of IDADA. I just start figuring it out as I go, helping the president execute the planned events, helping her organize, filling in at the meetings when she was unable to attend. Those were awkward. Robert’s Rules of What?

It was a weird run. We had a ten year anniversary, but no one really knew when the ten years started (we knew it was somewhere around then, so we just decided to celebrate). We got a new logo. We got our website hacked by terrorists. While the president was on the phone with the FBI, my press-handling skills came in handy. I had crazy life events going down. All the while, I just worked with templates to learn what I was lacking.

I know you’re supposed to use these moments to brag, but I was fake-it-til-you-make-it all the way.

I just used my best judgement and hoped for the best.

In the fall of 2015, Season 12, the president’s term was up and I was on deck to be the new president. I still didn’t know how this was happening, but I had a good treasurer who knew the banking stuff and a diligent secretary. The first vice president I recruited talked a good game, and then split town, so the treasurer got a promotion.

The problem was, we’d accomplished everything that IDADA had set out to do. When I moved to Indy, in 2002, art shows were all over the place, there was no over-arching coordination, no working together with a stronger voice. Now, there most certainly was. There was no upcoming events, no Super Bowls on the horizon. We were all just there, trucking along, with the same dedicated volunteers.

There were folks that asked why the organization didn’t do this? How come they don’t do that? But those folks were also not likely to show up when a call for volunteers went out, so it always felt like it came down to the available free time of the board to accomplish anything. I set about tying up loose ends (that website hack took a minute to repair, but we did learn some cool new features we weren’t using, so there’s that). But we always felt…tired.

We had a two board retreats during Season 14, something new for this blue-collar kid.

We were going to figure out the direction of the organization. Do we take on a new mission? Do we go in a new direction? Do we fight the same old battles? Or do we cancel? Cancellation was certainly an option.

No one was able to properly visualize what came next. We all knew change was coming, we just couldn’t see it. It was out of focus. The only thing that was in focus was what to do if we stopped. I laid out that plan, just following the logical ends, and it seemed like the least exhausting. So there we were.

Season 14 would be the last Season of IDADA.

Now it’s this weird feeling. Everything is the last time. We just had our last meeting. We are preparing for our last big event. We are hosting our last art show. At the same time, we are resolving organizational issues. I feel like I’m trying to move and sell a house or something, also a thing I have no idea how to do. So I use my best, most common sense answer to each issue and hope for the best.

My most important goal is to honor those that set this show in motion, the original cast. They got this thing rolling, its ending should be a nice montage episode with everyone hugging.

Is this how other organizations do it? Is this how other board presidents do it? Do they fake-it-til-they-make-it too? (Do they just wear that less on their sleeve?)

A colleague told me that I wasn’t killing the organization, I was bringing it in for the necessary smooth landing. But this whole time, I feel like I never had any idea how to fly, I just got lucky and punched the proper buttons. I mean, auto-pilot helped, but you have to disengage that feature to land.

Here’s hoping this show doesn’t end up like the season finale of LOST.