Dear TSA Members,
As this letter was in its final draft and going to press, the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the senseless death of so many other people of color reminds us all of the racism and violence that has persisted in American culture. The Textile Society of America absolutely condemns racism, oppression, and discrimination targeted against all people of color and other minority groups. From all on the TSA Board:
We must come together to support The Black Lives Matter Movement and demand change of ourselves and our nation. TSA is committed to devoting our resources to the creation of a more diverse, inclusive, and anti-racist organization for the study and promotion of textiles. We welcome your comments and more importantly your help in striving toward this goal. For resources please see our website at https://textilesocietyofamerica.org/10113/tsas-statement-against-police-violence
Over these many months as COVID-19 has marched across the globe, we have seen a rise in violence against people of Asian descent and greater infection rates for African-Americans. Threads of connections and security have unraveled as we struggle with concerns over our health and the health of those we hold dear. The routines that kept us busy have given way to continuous news announcements, projected timelines, homeschooling, caring for elderly parents, Zoom meetings, and uncertainty. Halted research, inabilities to concentrate in the studio, and fears about museum re-openings, teaching online, and tenure clocks additionally weigh on our minds. I know that many of you have suffered multiple losses – losses of loved ones, friends, colleagues, neighbors, jobs, income, and direction. Unfortunately, none of us will get through this without loss and significant change to our lives. As TSA moves forward, we want to make sure that we acknowledge this in the decisions we make about the organization. While the work described below started several years ago, we, the TSA Board and other volunteers, find ourselves in a time of opportunity to make organizational change that seeks to address access and inclusion within TSA.
Since my last President’s Letter, the TSA Board held its regular Fall Board Meeting in person and our Spring Board Meeting – by Zoom of course. Additional full board meetings and small committee meetings have continued online and by phone. We have addressed the ongoing needs of running the organization, but our conversations have also included ways to guide the organization to a place where more people feel welcome and can participate.
Headed into the Boston symposium, it was clear to all involved that TSA needed to address issues of race and gender equality head-on and make real changes around equity and inclusion. In October, the Board met for two days in Boston where we immersed ourselves in a full-day workshop with artEquity, an organization that offers training and consulting services to individuals and organizations on creating and sustaining a culture of equity and inclusion through the arts and culture (https://www.artequity.org/). Our conversations were intense and often very personal, and we found ourselves addressing our own identity issues as a way of beginning to address access and equity issues in our organization. What we learned in the workshop has become the center point of this board’s decision-making process, and we continue to gather in small groups to explore ideas and think through critical issues.
At the end of 2019, we launched our extraordinary new website. I remember when the original website went live, and it was a very important step for TSA. We desperately needed an upgrade; the new website is beautiful, responsive, and more secure. If you haven’t spent time with it, please do, as you will find wonderful images and content. We are excited that these new changes strengthen our ability to better meeting ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act, 1990) standards, making the website information more accessible and readable on more platforms. It took so much work to make this happen, and my deepest thanks goes to all who worked so diligently to make the new site a reality.
Additionally, the new website increased TSA’s capacity for releasing content asynchronously throughout the year, expanding its educational mission and commitment to open-source materials, and inviting more voices into the conversation. With this in mind, the Board made the decision to end the Newsletter as a PDF and moved content online in the form of TSA News. With TSA News came a new volunteer opportunity, TSA Digital Content Editor. I am pleased to welcome Amy DiPlacido into that position. Amy is the Curator of Exhibitions at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles in San Jose, California and will work with the Communications Committee to oversee the TSA News publication process on the website. If you have an idea for an article, we would love to hear from you. For information as to how to do this, visit: https://textilesocietyofamerica.org/news/newsletters/submit-to-tsa-news
I want to sincerely thank all volunteers and Board members who made the print Newsletter, and then the PDF Newsletter possible. It was an extraordinary amount of work carried out by a truly talented and dedicated group of people. Thank you for all the beautiful, informative, and exciting Newsletters you produced over the many years. If anyone missed a Newsletter, or just want to go back and read one, all PDF Newsletters are archived on our site.
You may have noticed that the nominations process for the TSA Board has been delayed. This is happening not only because of COVID-19 interruptions and the need for our volunteer board to take much needed time for themselves and their families, but also because the Nominations Committee, in conversation with the full TSA Board, is looking to expand board positions. Adding new board positions will allow us to get more of you involved and get some much-needed help with the tasks and goals of the organization. We are excited to welcome new members and we are delighted that some board members have agreed to extend their time on the board. We hope this will help with continuity of projects and ideas and create a more comfortable transition for all who serve on the TSA Board.
To facilitate a broader range of participation, the TSA Board voted in April to end the requirement that TSA Board Members attend 3 out of 4 Board Meetings in person. For many wanting to serve, this requirement has been a barrier to participate for financial reasons, environmental concerns, long-distance travel requirements from inside or outside the U.S., and/or other personal reasons. If you haven’t considered serving on the TSA Board because of travel to board meetings, we hope now you will reconsider.
And of course, amidst all of this, we have spent time looking forward to and planning for the 2020 Symposium in Boston. We developed an exciting program with panels, individual papers, warp speed presentations, site seminars, a juried members exhibition, and a thriving marketplace. At the hotel, we arranged non-gendered bathrooms and affinity group conversations. Seminar rooms were to be open during the evenings, so people had a place to gather without the cost of going out. We were well underway with planning our recorded sessions so that those who couldn’t join us would have access to some of the excellent papers and presentations. But with COVID-19 we had a new set of questions, “Do TSA members feel safe planning to travel in October? Will our valued international colleagues be able to join us? Will our presenters be able to present new research if museums, archives, and institutions are closed? Will institutions financially support travel – or even allow employees to travel?” All of these questions drove us to seek guidance from you with our early May survey. Thank you for your responses. It was important for us to hear from so many of you.
In light of your responses, the TSA Board announced that we will hold the 2020 TSA Symposium, Hidden Stories/Human Lives online October 15, 16, and 17th, 2020. We have been in touch with presenters and keynote speakers and hope to present a program of concurrent sessions that is as exciting and rigorous as the one we had originally planned. Presenters will still have the opportunity to publish their papers in the Proceedings via the University of Nebraska, Lincoln’s Digital Commons. It won’t be the same as a face-to-face conversations, but it will be good. And it will be important for many of us.
Because in the survey so many of you said that you would miss the face-to-face interactions, in addition to the 2020 TSA Symposium, we are planning a 2-day in-person event in Boston for September of 2021. We sincerely hope that by then it will be safe to be together. We know that our symposiums offer important opportunities for community and for TSA to pair with local institutions and experts, and that will be lost this year when we move the Symposium online. The 2021 event in Boston will not be a second symposium, but an event that revolves around making in-person connections and coming together as a community. We are excited about this event and will get information to you in the coming months.
As I conclude, I want to express my sincere and deep thanks and appreciation to all of you for being a part of the TSA community and for staying with us through this chaotic time. I am deeply grateful for the TSA Board Members and their thoughtful, respectful, and compassionate thinking and work. I am so appreciative to Pam Parmal and Lauren Whitley and all of the Boston Symposium Team for their work thus far, their flexible thinking, and their excitement on how we can bring this year’s symposium to you even if we are in a time when we can’t meet in a room together.
TSA is a member organization that is significantly run by members and volunteers and without you, there is no us. May you find comfort in your textile work during this troubling and stressful time.
With much respect and gratitude,
Lisa L. Kriner
TSA President, 2018-2020