A.I.G.A. Spirit—What Is It?
We must remember that “water cannot rise higher than its source”—that the spirit shown by its members will be inevitably the spirit of the Institute itself. This spirit is the outgrowth in the case of each member of the way in which he regards the Institute; and he may look at it in any one of three different ways.
He may look at it without interest or enthusiasm as merely one more of today's too-many organizations, as one more thing for which to pay (or forget to pay) dues. Such spirit cannot help.
Or he may look at it with great enthusiasm from the standpoint of what it gives him. It confers upon him, first of all and no matter in what city he may live, something to be very proud of—the honor and distinction of being an A.I.G.A. member. In its splendid “Keepsakes” alone, it returns to him in actual money value more than he pays for annual dues. If he takes part in its various activities, it gives him intimate contact and friendship with the great craftsmen, the recognized leaders in the graphic arts world of today. In its New York exhibitions, in its traveling exhibitions, and in its meetings—held as often in each city as local members desire—the Institute gives broader understanding, higher ideals, finer inspiration to encourage, to stimulate, and to spur him on to better effort in his own work. No wonder so many of us are enthusiastic in our memberships!
This is all very well. It is, in fact, one of the Institute's expressed “Objects”—namely, “to stimulate and encourage those engaged in the graphic arts.” But with only this kind of enthusiasm, with only this kind of spirit, nothing on earth can bring glory to the Institute's second 10 years. Why? Because this is the spirit of selfishness—the spirit of “What do I get out of it?” This spirit alone never brought, and never will bring, real glory or real greatness to anything.
There is a third way of looking at the Institute—and with even greater enthusiasm. It is a less selfish way; but it brings even greater rewards in the end. This third way is based not on the spirit of “What do I get out of the Institute?” but on the spirit of “What do the graphic arts get out of it? What does the country get out of it? What does the Institute do for the betterment of American people?”
This third way is based on the spirit of “What do the graphic arts get out of it? What does the country get out of it? What does the Institute do for the betterment of American people?”
It is based not on the spirit of getting but on the spirit of serving—not “What do I get?” but “How can I help?” This was the spirit of the men who founded the Institute. Have you carefully read those “Objects” written 10 years ago? Read this: “... to stimulate the public taste by schools, exhibitions, lectures and printed matter, to promote the higher education in these arts, and generally to do all things which will raise the standard and aid the extension and development toward perfection of the graphic arts in the United States.”
Turn to page two of the Year Book sometime and read these noble “Objects” entire. During its first 10 years the Institute has gone far. But not unless, during its second decade, it travels much faster and goes many times further will it live up to this dream of its founders or justify its high-sounding name. The speed it makes and the distance it covers will depend upon its handling of the two possible handicaps noted above. The first of these obstacles that of providing the Institute with the sound and unselfish “Spirit of Serving,” depends, in turn, upon the attitude of the Active Members. But even so these members cannot carry all of the load.
Spirit alone is not enough
The second obstacle noted, the question of aid and support for the Institute's work, depends on something other than spirit, on something which cannot be provided by Active Members alone. Active membership, to begin with, is an honor; it should continue always to be conferred only upon selected men. This means that the number of Active Members can never become very large. But even if the present number were tripled, and even if all were prompt with their dues, the Institute would still be unable fully to meet its great opportunities.
The most surprising and gratifying thing about the Institute's first 10 years has been the fact that all of its many splendid activities have been accomplished without the aid of paid assistance. Always a few very busy men have volunteered the time and work required; and always they have been handicapped by insufficient funds.
It is not possible to imagine a finer example than this of the “Spirit of Serving” referred to above. But fine spirit alone cannot, and should not be expected to, function continuously unless encouraged by tangible aid and support. Nor can all the fine spirit in the world carry any burden alone. The wherewithal must always be provided.
Some part of the responsibility for the Institute's success falls upon each individual member, in that he should absorb more and more, if he will, of the unselfish “Spirit of Serving.”
There are hundreds of large companies in this country doing business solely in the graphic arts field. The Institute does not operate, of course, for the purpose of aiding the welfare of these firms; but its activities unavoidably do aid them. Every move the Institute makes stimulates automatically the market for better paper, better ink, finer presswork, more careful engraving, well-chosen type, finer craftsmanship and higher quality in each and every detail. Not only this, but it is doubtful if there is in America any other single influence which operates so strongly in this direction; and the benefits to these graphic arts companies must increase and expand as the Institute's influence widens. Surely, among these companies there must be many which, as soon as this is brought to their attention, will be glad—even eager—to carry some small share of the Institute's burden. It is to enable them to do so that the Sustaining Membership privilege has been inaugurated. Already fourteen business houses have availed themselves of this opportunity. Their names will be found in another column. With eighty-six more, a hundred in all, the Institute would find itself on a firm financial footing and its activities and helpful influence could be more than tripled in a single year.
Peering ahead, then, into the next 10 years and casting up our chances, it is evident that some part of the responsibility for the Institute's success falls upon each individual member, in that he should absorb more and more, if he will, of the unselfish “Spirit of Serving.”
But this problem of financial support will almost take care of itself if only the first of our two problems, the question of A.I.G.A. spirit, is solved. If, in other words, an ever increasing number of Active Members will realize the Institute's great power for service to the graphic arts and to the country, we need have no worry about Sustaining Members. With Active Members more and more in earnest about the Institute and its “Objects,” the big graphic arts companies will do their part—and do it almost without being asked. The coming season of1924–1925 is the first year of the Institute's second decade. How far can we make this year carry the Institute along the road we all wish it to travel?