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Letter from the National President Evelyn B. Wofford, Fall 2021

An Ending

And so it ends much as it began, but with far fewer weeds and many more flowers. Currently, the gardens surrounding Pen Arts lie in a state of dormancy, no weeds as yet, but tiny green shoots are signaling a new flowering season. Four years of fighting those prolific and pesky weeds is now showing some degree of success. And so it is with our League.

The strangling weed of an annual property tax of just under $50,000 has been eradicated. In its place are four years that NLAPW has been able to end its fiscal year without having to access its line of credit. What a flower! Other choking weeds include major issues with the building that have had to be addressed. Fortunately, one by one, the weeds were pulled and the Pen Arts building remains a beautiful flower in the Dupont Circle neighborhood.

The list of weeds goes on, but the focus now is on the flowers. Another amazing flower was the $25,000 gift of the James McGrath family that served as a matching grant and generated a match of $25,241.98. Over $50,000 to use as needed to promote the League and reestablish the Pen Arts Building as a venue and an interesting historical site to visit.

President Evelyn Wofford with Washington Arts  Ensemble co-founder and pianist Christopher Schmitt (right) and violinist Jesus Rodolfo during the ensemble’s  performance at Pen Arts.
President Evelyn Wofford with Washington Arts
Ensemble co-founder and pianist Christopher Schmitt (right) and violinist Jesus Rodolfo during the ensemble’s
performance at Pen Arts.

A third wonderful flower bloomed in September 2018 when a unique, functioning art gallery that is now well known in the Dupont Circle area was opened. It may be accessed by a recovered staircase leading from the main-floor foyer of Pen Arts and by a separate entrance on N Street.

This large basement room morphed from a storage area to a major means of addressing a key aspect of the League’s mission, which is to provide educational, creative, and professional support to members and nonmembers, both in the D.C. area and across the United States. To this end, in addition to showcasing art and promoting the sale of art, the Pen Arts Gallery has been the site of numerous workshops, health and wellbeing presentations, musical events, book signings, and lectures on topics related to all the arts.

The strikingly beautiful first floor of Pen Arts remains the loveliest of flowers and has, even during the pandemic, attracted myriads of musical events, from the very classical to generational spanning jazz. In the past two months alone, the parlor has been the site of two performances by the Washington Arts Ensemble featuring piano (that marvelous Steinway grand), cello, flute, and viola; two jazz groups including Amy Bormet’s five-piece band; and, of course, members of the Washington Opera Society, who have loved performing at our venue. Such a delight to hear again the chatter of excited patrons of the arts, strains of music of every ilk, and the enthusiastic applause of satisfied listeners.

There is one dazzling flower that must be mentioned because it has been the lifeblood (I know — mixed metaphor) of this National League of American Pen Women, Inc. for the last four years.

Quite often, the board of directors is taken for granted, but the membership of this organization needs to be aware of the diligence and hard work that has characterized the boards of directors of these past two administrations. Seldom do board members constantly work in tandem with each other to promote the mission and goals of an organization, but these two boards have worked hand in glove under some very adverse circumstances (thank goodness for Zoom) to manage this League and promote at every turn its mission.

I firmly believe that because of the hard work of these boards and their outreach to branches across the United States, the League has continued to gain membership (another flower) in spite of the pandemic. These members should be recognized and applauded for all that they have achieved in the two or four years that each has served.

Weeds will continue to grow. They can never be totally eradicated, but with perseverance and diligence, they can be overcome. May the next administration find many more flowers to cultivate in its garden.


See President’s Letters Archive for past letters.