Reflections from the Director of Events & Programming

AIGA Chattanooga has been a massive part of my personal and professional development from the time I graduated in 2013 until today as I sit here 4 years into my business. After being an active member for a few years, I began volunteering with AIGA Chattanooga in 2015 in hopes of feeling more connected with the local design community. Seeing the effort being made by the past board, I was pumped to come on as Director of Events and Programming in January of 2017. Stepping into this position, I knew my over-achiever self could kick butt at putting some events together, but my main goal was to improve our design community with meaningful events and programming that brought people together: designers and non-designers alike. Obviously, a dream like this can not be attained alone, and as someone who works alone everyday, I was ready to gain the strength working with a team.

From making close friendships and irreplaceable memories, to learning the ins and outs of event design and a non-profit organization, I have gained more from the past two years of being on the AIGA Chattanooga board than I could have wished for. Through challenges and celebrations, I am lucky to call two strong young women, Beth and Taylor, best friends after serving on the board together. We’ve traveled, worked, laughed, planned, problem solved, partied, taken deep breaths, cried (yes, cried), and so much more together. Amongst all of the planning, learning, and growth we’ve created memories that will last a lifetime – traveling to Dallas in 2017 and joining in on our first Pyramid with board members from all over the country (Taylor), Singing Demi Lovato during the 11 hour drive to Baltimore and back for the 2018 leadership retreat (Beth), bringing the AIGA initiatives to Chattanooga by holding some of our largest and most successful events yet! – just to name a few. On top of the gushy stuff, I truly feel more knowledgeable about running a non-profit organization as well as how that applies to my business. From putting systems in place in order to put on successful events, to creating a sponsorship packet and revisiting our mission statement, I feel confident in the skills this board position has enabled me to learn.

Although being on the board of AIGA Chattanooga has been spectacular, volunteering in a leadership role with a non-profit organization has its challenges. Our local chapter has some financial support from national based on our membership, but in a time where inclusivity is best this does not allow much stability. Not only does this bring up the trial of fundraising and sponsorship, but learning how to welcome everyone to events held by a membership based organization. We were faced to solve the problem “How does AIGA fit into Chattanooga’s local standards?”, not AIGA’s national standards. Overall, even with our accomplishments the past two years, it has been a difficult creating and maintaining relevance and growth with a small volunteer team.

Besides the experiences gained and the challenges faced, there have been some great wins. AIGA Chattanooga now has processes for planning events and a shiny new sponsorship packet to share with potential funders. On top of that, we have documentation of the events held in the past in order to duplicate them in the future. Our team engaged the community with meaningful events including two portfolio reviews, two fundraisers, one member party, NoGo Logo, Women Lead, and GUTS. The board even re-evaluated what it means to be AIGA Chattanooga by revisiting our mission statement. It has yet to be announced, but my hope is one day someone will take it and run!

I am truly passionate about the time I spent volunteering with this organization. As a board member, it is not just a local experience, but a national one. It is not just a volunteer position, but a true commitment to bettering your community. I am proud to say AIGA Chattanooga was practically a side business I ran with my best female friends for two years, but at this point I am excited to focus every bit of my attention on the integrity and growth of Blades Creative. Cheers to a new chapter!






Gabrielle Blades
Director of Events & Programming

By aigachattanooga
Published September 18, 2019
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