"Unfortunately, I've been forced to spend increasingly more time defending or explaining decisions instead of working on League business," Baker wrote in her Feb. 8 resignation letter.
"It was a bigger job and a lot more personal issues than Mary Anne ever dreamed of," departing board member Katie Cooney said.
Baker was elected chairwoman of the board Jan. 16 after all but three previous board members left the board Jan. 9. Five of the nonprofit's six staff members also resigned over the holidays, spurred by the bitterness engendered by plans to sell the organization's historic Ramona Street building, and a campaign to ward off the sale.
On Jan. 16, Baker said she wanted to help the league "continue and prosper. I have a lot of ideas."
Wednesday, Baker said she was sad about her resignation.
"I really thought I was a perfect fit. ... I wasn't involved in that big fight," Baker said. "I had no idea the feeling was still so strong."
Baker said she plans to remain a member of the league and still has a lot of respect for the members of the board.
The building was not an issue in her resignation, Baker said. She authored a resolution, approved unanimously by the board Jan. 30, which said "there will be no further attempt to sell our building."
Walter Smith, the previous vice chair and a leader of the "Vote No" campaign opposing the building's sale, said he will serve as an interim chairman until the board's Feb. 20 meeting.
Smith, and board member Donnasue Jacobi, also a leader of the "Vote No" campaign, downplayed the effect of Baker's resignation.
"This is not a major change," Smith said, adding, the transition between boards is "working out fairly well.
"I think if you came around the building, you'd see there's a certain excitement," Smith said,
An organization encompassing 600 artists "will never be plain and simple. But that's part of its charm," Smith said.
A top priority is to keep the league operating following the recent staff exodus.
The board's executive director Stephanie Demos remains on medical leave, several board members said. A temporary employee and former board member-turned staff contractor Karen Gutfreund are administering the organization, Cooney said.
Jacobi said she and other volunteers are pitching in to learn computer systems and take care of other necessary tasks.
Using volunteer labor, the organization will be able to slim down the size of its paid staff, one of the new board's goals, Smith said.
The board is also working on plans to rehabilitate and possibly expand its building at 668 Ramona St.
Smith said the project, which includes a seismic retrofit and improving the building's accessibility, would cost between $2 and $4 million. The board intends to begin fundraising soon, he said.
To expand its reach into the community, the board is expanding its offering of entry-level art classes, he said.
The gallery will focus on "more modestly priced but very good quality art that comes out of the artists in the community," Smith said.
"One of the major things we're trying to do is have a strong link to the membership," he said.
Members will be informed and are invited to attend board meetings, he said.
The board also plans to revive a newsletter for its members, Smith said.
In the future, the organization might host poetry readings, evening art shows and other events to involve the broader community, Smith said.
But, in general, the rebuilding effort is proceeding well, Smith said.
"We have a lot of people come in and say, 'I'm so thankful you guys saved the art league,'" Jacobi said.
Smith said the new board hopes to remain "homogenous."
"We want to move along as a unified group," he said.
The next board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 20 at 6 p.m. at 668 Ramona St.
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