?íMil Gracias! - A Self-Help Graphics Farewell

A reflection of three years serving on the board of directors of Self-Help Graphics, 2005 - 2008

By Armando Dur??n
Published on LatinoLA: April 23, 2012

<i>?íMil Gracias!</i> - A Self-Help Graphics Farewell

Editor's Note: "Mil Gracias" by Armando Dur??n was first published by Brooklyn & Boyle in its Feb./Mar. 2009 issue as "Mil Gracias: A Self-Help Graphics Farewell, 2005-2008". ?áIt is reprinted here on the occasion of the recognition Armando received at Self Help Graphics & Art dinner on April 20, 2012.

Since word got out a few weeks ago that I had resigned from the Board of Directors of Self Help Graphics, I have received several messages and emails of thanks, have been thanked at various events and have been sent thank you cards. Thank you all for your kind words, but the thanks shouldn't go to me.

After forty months of working with an extraordinary "working" board that gradually grew from five members to fifteen (special thanks to Marjorie Raymond and Valerie De La Garza), an equally extraordinary group of loyal volunteers whose belief in the mission, vision and values of SHG far outweighed the long hours, hot summers, cold winters, thankless tasks and seemingly endless things to do (special thanks to Victoria Delgadillo, Leslie Saiz, the rest of Los de Abajo, la familia Esparza including Javier, Rossana and Sticky Rick, Mario Sapien, Margaret Garcia, Cassandra Gonzalez and family, and especially Peter Tovar), as well as other individuals who stepped up when asked for special favors or helped without being asked (Gracias Juan Rodriguez of KGB, board members Deb Pierson and Gil Cardenas, Frank Romero, Elizabeth Morin and Joe Smoke from DCA, Supervisor Gloria Molina, Antonia Hernandez, Castulo De La Rocha and Altamed, William Acedo, Ron Rogers and Lisa Specht, our accountant John Fetta, Rodney Franks, Richard Duardo and Shepard Fairey, Patrick Ela, Chon Noriega, Max Benavidez, Michael Stern, Janet Swanson, Clemete Ruiz, Rochelle Newman Carrasco, Lorenzo Hernandez, Omar Ramirez, Selma Holo and Fred Croton, Ronda Osman and countless others), it was time to call it a day and pass on the torch.

As some of you may remember, I had committed to staying for thirty-six months. I believe that in that length of time one has either accomplished something and it's time to move on, or he has not accomplished much and it's time to move on. I sketched out my time as if it was going to be a fifteen-round boxing match. That made it easier to take the punches as they came and keep track of which rounds I was losing and which ones I was winning. (Your scorecards may vary.) And although I wanted to stay on a bit longer, my health and other responsibilities made it impossible for me to consider it.

The survival, renaissance and success of SHG these last three years has been the result of a combination of in-kind income, volunteers and earned income since government, corporate and foundation funding has been minimal. Only now are the fruits of years of some of the latter efforts being realized (gracias Raquel Dominguez).

While I was aware in general terms of the shape that SHG was in when I was first approached to join the Board in September of 2005, I was not aware of just how many challenges it was facing. It took many months for the whole truth to come out. Although originally thought to be about $75,000.00, the debt was actually $160,000.00. There were questions about the location and condition of SHG's print archive. SHG had failed to live up to many of its grant requirements and was consequently ineligible to apply for additional grants from long-time funders. There were wild rumors about theft and worse. (No evidence of any of that was found.)

The building had been closed for four months and there was no one to give the new board members comprehensive information about the inner workings of SHG. Almost immediately we reopened the building. On November 2nd of that year we had a Day of the Dead event whose success has only grown in the past three years. We expanded the board, paid off the debt, reinvigorated the print studio's output, oversaw SHG's first ever complete audit, revised the by-laws, regained the more than 600 prints that were in the possession of other entities, fixed the roof and the plumbing and made the gallery profitable. We held countless board meetings and devised strategic and business plans. At the end of my term on July 19th of last year, SHG had over $116,000.00 in the bank, all in unrestricted funds and over $68,000.00 in receivables. The debt we inherited had been paid or written off.

The print production, under the direction of Jose Alpuche, SHG's master printer, was greatly enhanced and the quality has been roundly praised. In the last fiscal year, thirty-nine prints were produced. Gracias Joe and Ivan. Thanks also to all the artists who participated in the ateliers, especially the Maestras (curated by Yolanda Gonzalez) and Homombre (curated by Miguel Angel Reyes) Ateliers, as well as the artists who did independent projects, including Gronk, Linda Vallejo, Shizu Saldamando, Wayne Healy, Vincent Valdez, Michael J. Walker and many more.

Thanks to the artists who created the Day of the Dead prints: Germs (2005), Wayne Healy (2006), Victor Rosas (2007) and Peter Tovar (2008). And thanks to the outside entities that commissioned prints -- Notre Dame University's Institute of Latino Studies, the National Basketball Association, the Claremont Museum, the Oxnard Project and the Latino Theatre Company. Gracias also to all those who acquired prints during the last three years. You won't regret your investment.

As near as we could surmise, SHG's gallery had never contributed much through its sales. By instituting a nominal percentage policy for SHG, the gallery was able to contribute substantial sums during some of its exhibitions, especially during the last year. We had some great exhibitions at SHG during these last three years. Among the most memorable for me were Not Enough Space, Los Vagitos, Somos Medicina (gracias Mujeres Indigenas), Flowers from Carmen's Garden (thanks Alfred Alferov and Christina Ochoa), Eastside Connection: Works from the Gil Cardenas Collection (gracias Gil) and Roberto Gutierrez: The Old Neighborhood (thanks Roberto).

The etching studio, organized by Los de Abajo, created some memorable works, and had some very successful workshops. Thanks Poli Marichal, Mariana Sadowski, Kay Brown, Don Newton, Antonio Escalante, Sam Baray and Judith Duran. Meanwhile, thanks to Reggie Coleman, the CAP/Self Help Graphics & Art Digital Media Program maintained its classes through all the uncertainty.

We were also able to mount exhibitions of SHG works including La estampa de Self Help Graphics at the Museo Jose Luis Cuevas in Mexico City (2006) and the Faulconer Gallery in Grinnell College, Iowa (2007), and The Virgen Prints of Self Help Graphics at the Latino Museum, Los Angeles (2007-2008). Additional works from the EPP collection were also exhibited at the district offices of Councilman Jose Huizar and CARECEN.

True to its heritage, SHG was also a venue for countless poetry readings, AA meetings, SKA happenings and many other functions too numerous to mention. Gracias a todos for conducting yourselves as keepers of the community's centro. During the last three years, we never had an incident that required police intervention or that caused physical or other damage to SHG.

I want to thank my family: Mary, my wife, for understanding ÔÇô among other things ÔÇô that sometimes I have to do what I have to do despite our better judgment; and my children for encouraging me to take on the task to help save SHG, and for all your volunteer hours. I hope you weren't disappointed.

Of course I made mistakes. I want to apologize to all those who may have felt slighted, ignored or worse. And I regret that despite my repeated overtures to the Sisters of St. Francis (anybody have the skinny on their promise to offer art scholarships?) and the Archdiocese, the building was not secured. But maybe that will turn out to be for the best.

One last thing, I was happiest at SHG when I was showing prints to all those collectors, students, out-of-towners, academics and locals who wandered in. For me it's all about the community and its art. I will miss those sale days the most.

You see, it's not me who deserves thanks. It's all of you, those I mentioned and those I didn't. Even if I didn't mention you specifically, you should know that you made my tasks that much easier by your help, support and kind words. And many of you to whom I gave thanks did much more than I mentioned. I can only say so much in these few lines. You gave your time, talent, resources and sometimes your money.

Now SHG is under new leadership. Stephen Siaz is committed to continuing SHG's legacy no matter where it may be situated. If you continue to offer SHG the same support that you gave during my tenure, I am sure that SHG will continue to thrive.


Armando Dur??n

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