We are sad to announce that after leading the way at APG for 3.5 years of amazing growth, Beth Lilly has decided to step down as Executive Director. Beth wanted to inform the members about this decision, so our own Esther Griffin spoke with her about her time at APG, new challenges, and her reasons for leaving now.
When did you start at APG?
I started in October 2014. I spent 3 months shadowing then executive director Polly Barr. I started in January 2015 as the official new Executive Director. There were several things we wanted to do: build awareness about the organization in the community, create more programming, make it more financially robust, create systems capable of creating reports on performance etc.
Were you familiar with APG before you started as Executive Director?
Definitely. APG started in 1987, the same year I came to Atlanta to get my Master’s degree at Georgia State. I was really involved as a graduate student, I sold my first piece at APG! Over the years I stayed connected and after some time I was invited to join the board as an artists’ representative. I was on the board for two or three years and then one of those amazing things happened: I had just decided that I wanted to work full-time in the non-profit sector. The next thing I know, Polly puts in her resignation. It was like it was meant to be.
Now you have decided to resign. Can you explain why?
Well, internally, when I took the job I made a 3-year commitment. I had envisioned where APG should be after that time: solid, with good plans in place, good systems in place, well established and set up for the future. During this time my mother was in late stages of Alzheimer’s and so those were the two focusses I had: helping my dad taking care of my mom and working for APG. I had set my art and personal life on hold. When my mother passed away in April of this year, it felt like a chapter of my life had closed and I was now free to move on to the next stage. I’ve really thought a lot about what it is that I want to do with the rest of my life and how much I miss making art.
So, you have been taking care of APG’s future for the last three years and now it is time to take care of your own future?
That is exactly the way I see it.
Can you tell us what it is that you are going to do next?
Not really! Officially my last day at APG will be July 31st. Then, I am going to take a month off and start looking for a new challenge. I don’t have a clear idea yet in which sector I would like to work, but I do know I don’t want to commute anymore. The traffic in Atlanta creates lots of travel time and that just doesn’t leave much room for anything else. Also, I really would like a flexible schedule and more time for my art. So basically, I am looking for the right balance between art, family and friends.
I am very excited about a new challenge. I am somebody who likes new things. Even at APG I was always excited about new projects, new shows, new workshops, I love doing new things and am not the right person to do the same thing again and again.
Are you saying goodbye full stop or will you stay involved in some way?
We are working hard to find an excellent replacement and I will be available for things that come up, so we can make the transition as smooth as possible. Also, I will be starting to serve on the board again. I fell in love with APG, with its members, with its mission and there is just no way I am not going to be involved. It is just too great.
If you look back now, what are you most proud of?
We hit all our goals, both financially and organizationally. But I am also astounded at the success our members are seeing. I can’t take the credit for that, but I think APG makes a strong photography community and I know that makes individual artists stronger: there is more support, more energy, more stuff going on, people to talk to, ways to stay motivated, connections to be made.
What do you take away from this job?
I learned an awful lot about being a successful artist and how to work with institutions: I got a whole different perspective. Every artist should spend time working at a gallery or doing something to see what it is like on the other side. As an artist you see one aspect of the picture, now I feel like I understand the big picture.
Also, I made so many friendships that I don’t want to go away. As an artist, I didn’t feel deeply involved in the artist community in Atlanta, now I feel like I truly am. I have a sense of belonging and that feels great. I don’t want that to drift away.
Finally, what do you feel will be the biggest challenge for your successor?
Managing growth. Also, the whole art paradigm has been changing over the last 10/15 years or so: galleries and institutions are still struggling to deal with the internet. So, APG needs to help the artists trying to figure out this new world and where it is going, so we can change with it and also find our own place in all this. It will be very interesting for the next person to take these challenges up.