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[BKARTS] Nexus Press



I appreciate Terry Belanger's comments about Lance Weatherby's letter
regarding Nexus Press. I also do not have knowledge on Nexus's
operations, but decided to respond to a few of Weatherby's assumptions.
I apologize for the letter's length. Betty Bright

Dear Lance Weatherby and the other members of the Center board, and the
Friends of Nexus Press,

Thank you for your reply. Let me respond in turn to a few of your
comments.

I begin with a point that you chose to end with. I was struck with your
citing that the individuals who have written letters on behalf of Nexus
represent few actual purchasers of Nexus Press books, or members (read:
donors) of the Press. This is an intriguing means of weighing public
response, one that is based on, as you describe your decision to suspend
operations, a "purely financial" basis. It is indeed important to note
whether letter writers are donors, members, or purchasers of--since we
seem to be in a business mode--the "products" of the Press. Still, to
emphasize that point in a letter meant to demonstrate your even-handed
consideration of the fate of the Press implies some sort of critique, a
means to take less seriously the concerns of the letter writers. Such a
basis for assigning importance to a letter writer may be common in the
for-profit world, but it is foreign to the nature of non-profit arts
management. Strong business practices are essential to the survival of
npos, but those practices serve an organization only within the larger
commitment to public service. I simply do not understand your reliance
on a dollar amount, as a means of the (de)valuation of a particular
writer's comments.

For that matter, your presumption re: book buying is, at least in my
case, simply wrong. I believe what you sent was a form letter, so that
may explain the error. For my part, I have purchased a few Nexus Press
books this last year (2002), and more the year before, since I used them
in an art history class I taught at Mpls. College of Art and Design, on
the history of the artist's book. Why doesn't Nexus Press have my name
in its records? I believe I bought a few of the books through the museum
shop at Minnesota Center for Book Arts (MCBA), or through Printed Matter
in NYC. Perhaps the names of purchasers are not forwarded back to the
printer. Whatever the reason, I reiterate my concern that dollar amounts
tied to letter writers, was determined as a point for the board to make,
at all. Public response is public response. The fact that a writer has
taken the time to write is what is important, and demonstrates concern
for the continuance of Nexus Press.

I must add that there are many ways to support the operations of a
Press--again, we exist in the non-profit world--and I hope that my own
curating, lecturing, and teaching about Nexus Press books will not be
dismissed as of no use to your Center's reputation. My involvement is
only one of many across the country. I can think of two lectures I've
heard in Mpls. in the last six months alone, that included discussion of
books by Nexus Press.

I wish to return to your further critique that few of the letter writers
are members of Nexus Press. This is true in my case, as I have chosen to
send my limited funds elsewhere. However, had I been contacted ahead of
time, informed of the dire straights of Nexus Press, and presented with
a plan that demonstrated the commitment on the part of the Center to
seek the continuance of the Press, I would have certainly responded to
the best of my ability. I am surprised that your comments--again--imply
a critique of an audience for not donating to a facility, when your
audience has not been kept informed of the developing crisis. A message
to the BookArts list, for example, costs nothing, and reaches an
extensive audience. Why the silence, until the bitter end? To me, this
indicates a failure on the part of management.

Financial crises are horrendous events which afflict most non-profits.
MCBA nearly shut down about 6 years ago due to a financial crisis. When
the news broke that "other options" were being considered by the board,
local book artists and other supporters stepped forward in protest. The
board responded, and held a series of planning meetings, developed a
plan to work toward stability, and today MCBA is part owner (with other
npos) of a tremendous facility called Open Book, in downtown
Minneapolis. This was not a miracle; it resulted from many hours of
volunteer work, along with a board that was responsible and committed
enough to change direction and join in to seek a viable solution.

Third, as to your noting the imminent meeting of a task force, I
sincerely hope that that group includes members of the Nexus Press
artist community, as well as representatives of the board and "community
members." It is usually clear from the make-up of a task force, what the
expectations are of its organizers. I also hope that the task force has
among its materials for review, not just a spread sheet, but these
letters of support, as well as the books themselves.

Fourth, you indicate that Nexus has not generated nearly enough book
revenue or other restricted financial support to pull its own weight for
several years. I do not know the organizational structure at the Center,
but I do remember being introduced to a development person on one of my
visits. I remember wondering how the Center determined which programs
that development officer worked for. I question the simple equation of
stating that not enough money has been raised, because the dollars
generated for a program often result from the amount of effort put
toward grantwriting for that particular program, and certainly not only
from a program's intrinsic value. My question, then, would be just what
percentage of the development officer's time was directed toward the
Press, as compared to other programming entities...and whether efforts
were made to create other potential revenue streams for the Press, such
as, for example, incorporating youth educational programs within the
Press, since those programs more easily attract funders.

I appreciate your taking the time to read this letter. I do have a good
deal of compassion for all organizations facing such difficult times.
Let me end with one final plea that, as a last resort, in lieu of
shutting down the Press, please, please consider facilitating its
relocation. Please demonstrate that you do indeed recognize that your
actions will have a distinct and continuing impact on a vital discipline
within the arts, as Nexus Press has for over twenty years.

Sincerely,

Betty Bright

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