Something’s Rotten in the State of VAAC-Ville

We keep on keepin’ on in regards to the Washington Street Arts Center project. I trudged to campus in the biting wind and 10 degree temps this morning to talk to a few people who have been heavily involved with the Arts Council over the years.

Then, I walked downtown and had a warming leek and tortellini soup at the Coffee Shop Gallery (review coming soon), read the current issue of the Volante, and talked to a couple more VAAC-sters, including the sole person I know who was on the founding board in 1974 (we’re talking the board that started the Arts Council, not the one that bought the building, though I’m guessing some of the same folks were involved).

Then, I walked down the block to a neighbor’s house to discuss my speaking engagement with her class later in the month, and the VAAC came up again (she’d read my recent letter to the editor in The Plain Talk and thought she was a member, but she has not received any of their recent mailings).

What I keep hearing, even from those who are not necessarily opposed to the sale of the WSAC, is the feeling that there’s something rotten in the state of VAAC-ville. There’s something not above-board about the actions of the board. This is about the last impression the board ought to be creating, and while they may not be creating it intentionally, it’s there. Since I seem to have a record of blurting out the things that I think and that I think others are thinking, I’ll say it: I think at least some of the leadership of the VAAC Board knows exactly who they plan on selling the property to. And I’m feeling less paranoid about saying this thing I think because so many others have thought it and said it to me.

Another thing I keep hearing is that the recent mailings from the VAAC to the current members (this is the time of year when the VAAC has the fewest members–memberships expire at the end of each calendar year) are worded in such a way as to make the sale of the property seem inevitable–like “it’s a done deal,” to quote one member I spoke with today. And while these mailings invite commentary from the membership, no names or contact information are given except for the VAAC’s post office box address.

The new website (called, suspiciously enough: VAAC on the Move) also does not contain contact information and does not contain minutes from any of the numerous meetings that have occurred since January 7th, so why does the recent mailing tout this website as the new official source for VAAC information? (It also does not, so far as I can see, contain a notice for the meeting this Friday to discuss the sale of the membership’s property, nor full text of the Needs Assessment Study.)

Also, a number of people I’ve talked with in the last couple of days (who think they are VAAC members but have not renewed their memberships since the start of the year), have not heard anything about the proposed sale (or hadn’t until they read my Plain Talk letter). So, it appears that the Arts Council leadership is only contacting the few members who have renewed since January 1, 2008. Convenient and cheap, but hardly a way to make this a group decision by the membership.

My partner, who runs the no-longer-official VAAC website linked to at right, has asked the Board for last year’s membership list in order to contact those who have not yet renewed; the Board had a special meeting (where are the minutes?) and determined they would not give it to him. Please note: the Bylaws include a provision that ten members in good standing can call a meeting of the VAAC. If the members do not have a membership contact list, that makes it more difficult to call such a meeting.

All of this smells very stinky to me. If it also smells stinky to you, you might consider writing a letter to the VAAC Board at PO Box 484 Vermillion SD 57069, or send an e-mail to and my partner Harry will be sure to forward it to the Board. You can also come to the meeting this Friday night, 7pm, at the Washington Street Arts Center, 202 Washington Street, Vermillion.


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