A Few Words about Corporate Arisia

My name is Jaelen Hartwin. I’ve been volunteering for Arisia since at least Arisia 2004 in a variety of roles. This year I’m the Youth Services Assistant Division Head and a member-at-large of the Corporate Executive Board. After being a volunteer for a while, I was asked to be an Assistant Division Head for the first time in the summer of 2013, for A’14. “You don’t have to join corp to be an assistant div head,” I was told, “but it’s certainly encouraged.”

I was, to put it mildly, not very excited about this prospect. I was vaguely aware that there was some corporate body that was involved in making Arisia go, but I understood it to be full of stuffy rules lawyers who had boring conversations about the convention budget. To be honest with you, there is some amount of dry budget and policy discussion that goes on, as is inevitable for any event the size of Arisia. But it turns out there’s a lot more to the corporation than just that, and I’d like to take this chance to tell you about some of the rest of it.

Arisia is an IRS-certified 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that makes grants, runs contests for student writers and artists, maintains a scholarship fund, among other things. Oh, it also holds a convention every year. A little thing you might have heard of, also called “Arisia”.

Since 2013, I’ve personally served on a variety of corporate committees, including:

  • the Student Contest committee, charged with running Arisia’s annual student art and writing contests;
  • the Long-Range Planning committee, which is currently in the process of surveying our attendees to find out how they want Arisia to change (or stay the same) in the next 5-10 years;
  • Corporate Inventory Control, in charge of maintaining the warehouse full of stuff Arisia uses every year;
  • the Logo committee, charged with deciding whether we want a new & updated corporate logo; and if so, soliciting proposals for said logo.

There are other committees that I haven’t personally served on, but that do really interesting things. Some of the more fascinating ones include:

  • While we may be pretty happy with the Westin, the Hotel Search committee is always on the lookout for overflow hotels, or even alternative main hotels in case of emergency.
  • The Grants committee is in charge of soliciting and receiving grant applications, and recommending which ones to approve. I’ve seen Arisia give grants to a library in California to expand their sci-fi section; to a new digital magazine featuring interactive genre fiction; to another convention, to help bring back some past Guests of Honor who had also been Arisia GoHs; and a bunch of other really cool places.
  • The Relaxacon committee runs a whole separate convention every summer, for Arisia staff and volunteers to hang out and play games.

There are also a bunch of interesting decisions every corporate member gets a say in. Stuff like the formation and continuation of the SMOFcon scholarship, where Arisia provides financial assistance to help people attend the convention for people who want to run conventions. Or the annual elections of the Executive Board, which is the group of people that selects the Arisia con chair and responds to incident reports. I’m in the middle of my second term on the Executive Board right now, in fact, and by the time this gets published, we may have already named the con chair for Arisia 2020.

There’s a lot of stuff the corporation does outside of running the convention every year, and membership is open to all. If you’re interested in joining, you can read more about it at http://corp.arisia.org/membership.