This post is about joining artist societies or if the focus is on a medium usually considered a craft it might be called a guild. Examples in this post are from Melbourne, Australia. Two years ago I joined the Embroiders Guild of Victoria and found it a positive experience. January is the time to sign up to an artist society because memberships generally run for a calendar year.
The best way to find a good artist society is by word of mouth. This year I’m joining the Waverley Arts Society because two different artists have recommended it to me and I now live close enough to make joining worthwhile.
Artist societies offer opportunities to exhibit, classes, ongoing study groups. In 2012 I exhibited the above piece “Mushrooms” in the Embroiders Guild annual members exhibition. Last year I was unfortunately too busy to have a piece to exhibit. I’m at the beginning of my artistic career therefore this was an excellent opportunity. In January 2013, I went to a class using digital prints and cutwork, also known as reverse applique. I’m hoping to explore both techniques further in the coming year. If you’re considering a medium specific society, but are uncertain about committing, try a short course through CAE or one of the Tafes. Sometimes it is possible to take a class with the society without joining. Wait till next year to join, and this year go the the annual members exhibition.
Some things to watch out for when joining an Artist Society. Politics or cliques, an atmosphere that encourages conformity, and exclusivity are all signs of an unhealthy group. Every group of humans of earth has politics, a school, a church, a nation, all have politics. But if you can sense the politics as soon as you join a group, it’s a sign of an unhealthy group. If a group is unwelcoming, it may have cliques. When cliques form a group is divided against itself, which is again unhealthy. An atmosphere that encourages conformity is where anything that is new and different from the pieces already produced by the group is criticised. An artist needs to explore different avenues, expose yourself to as many different influences as possible and develop your own style. A group which encourages conformity is stagnant and if you stay, you too will stagnate. Some artist societies require that a member refer you. The may seem exclusive but it is more likely that the group is more insular than others. This has similar problems to conformity.
Artist societies offer numerous opportunities to artists but there are pitfalls too. Consider this when joining an artist society
(C) Anita Morris 2013-2014