Forward Retreat

The HCP's directors take to the woods.
By Sally Horrigan
The Houston Center for Photography

One very cold, soggy weekend in January, members of the Houston Center for Photography's board of directors held a re­treat in a farmhouse near Weimar to discuss schemes and dreams. It had been felt that our rapid growth necessitated some rethinking, some reorganizing, and much brainstorming to come up with a plan for the future. We burned a ton of wood, ate heartily, and tried to back off to lake a look at where we are and where we want to go.

Saturday morning we divided ourselves into groups and fuddled under blankets to answer the question "What is an HCP?" From this first meeting came a mission statement:

The Houston Center for Photography is anon-profit membership organization that serves the community as a resource for educational exchange through exhibits, pub­lications, lectures, workshops, and fellow­ships. Our goals are to provide a forum for critical dialog and to encourage diverse ap­proaches to photography.

Although no such statement is as meaningful as the inquiry that goes into drafting it, we think the statement is accurate.

After lunch, groups met to come up with specific suggestions for the future. By mid-afternoon, there were twenty frozen souls chat­tering away, but circulation in the brain must not have been impaired, because hundreds of ideas were batted around. We consolidated and divided them into plans for the near and dis­tant future.

During the next several years one of our top priorities will be to ensure a solid financial foot­ing. In addition to our current three-year fund drive, other fund-raising activities must be in­itiated, foremost of these being a corporate membership program. The size of the advisory board needs to be increased and members en­couraged to participate in projects suited to their areas of expertise. They will also help with fund-raising.

We will aim to increase membership to 2,000: not all of these members will be photographers or Houstonians. We plan to have much to offer to many types of people. There will be plenty of work for volunteers (call our new Volunteer Coordinator Paula Goldman to offer your ser­vices) as well as opportunities for fraternizing. During this period some of our exhibitions will be offered to galleries in other cities across the country. More funds will mean we can attract more prominent photographers for exhibitions, lectures, and workshops. Articles from Image will be offered for reprint in regional publica­tions. This journal will reach for a national role in the photographic dialog, and we can begin to charge for it. More money will make possi­ble the publication of catalogs for particular shows, and some tentative steps toward pub­lishing books. Financial help from others will make possible lectures in Houston schools,

A library, now in its infancy (we have some shelves, and we have some books), is being tac­kled this spring by Paul Hester. Donations of photography books would be very much appre­ciated. Photographers from all over will be encouraged to provide transparencies for a slide library.

Toward the end of the decade, membership may reach 5,000. We hope to expand our pre­sent facility to provide more room for exhibi­tions, classrooms, and the library. An art loan program would provide individual works or ex­hibits to Houston corporations. HCP may spon­sor or co-sponsor artist4n-residence programs and retreats for photographers.

As HCP approaches the year 2000, perhaps with 8,000 members, we hope for a new, permanent home with much more space. Ad­ditional room will allow for one or more of these possibilities, depending upon the need in the community: a photography school with darkrooms; a book, print, and gift shop; and a coffee shop or lunchroom.

That's a lot of scheming for one day. One would think that the larynxes involved would have given out,but the talking continued after dinner, as we planned a fund-raising dance, a Black and White Ball for March 24 (call the Center at 529-4755 for details).

Sunday morning we made suggestions for streamlining our operation, and in the afternoon the poor bylaws committee met to try to deal with all that had transpired. We wandered back to Houston in a daze, but pleased with our ef­fort and excited about the future.