Are art societies worth it? Need insight from established artists.


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I'm looking at what to do with my art life in upcoming retirement. Not about painting itself, but about exhibiting and maybe selling. Up until now I've had the luxury of a good income, so selling made no difference to me, but on a fixed one it could well take the edge off the drop in revenue. And it's nice to be recognized and appreciated too.

So now I find myself toying more with a low level of marketing my work, and believe me I don't want to run a business again! That leads me to the question of exhibiting, which is where I'm most likely to get enough notice to test out the waters. I've been in 3 shows and could arrange a solo in a couple of local places.

My question is about art clubs/societies, the local, regional and national ones. On a fixed income I cannot afford to belong to a bunch of them, and I already run a plein air group and belong to a few, so I don't need more groups for company. Is it worth joining some of these for the opportunity of more exhibiting or not? And if so, how would/did you go about picking which ones might be worth the dues and effort?

I paint in several media, so choosing on the basis of medium may not make sense. My work is not avant garde, it's more "classical" Impressionism/Expressionism, which generally makes my chances in juried shows slim and not worth the entry fees.
I'm in the same boat Bart so I'm interested in this also. Also recently retiring and looking to get more involved. From what I'm hearing, the answer is to get involved with as much art related stuff as possible. Who one knows is at least as important as the quality of the work.
Well, it was honestly more than worth it for me and was the best steppingstone of my career--hands down. However, I joined a great art association in Los Angeles that was well-connected to the local scene. You might feel it was rather expensive. In the mid 2000s, it was a bit over $300 a year, plus three full days of volunteer work (I'm pretty sure?) It might have been one full day, but I can't remember because I volunteered more than needed.

I also got a scholarship one of the years I was a member. Lower income artists were able to apply for this, but not everyone got it.

I stayed for a few years there--it was the Los Angeles Art Association, and I moved on after many group shows and one solo show there. They had their own gallery space, which I feel was important. They offered a LOT in terms of being involved in the community, not just exhibition opportunities. They had different programs and I joined their programming committee as well. The more you're involved, the better. It's what you make of it. I went to all the openings and supported the other artists even if I was not in the shows.

They had frequent lectures from local gallery owners and curators, sometimes museum curators who would talk about how artists could help themselves build their resumes, submit proposals, present their work, write their statements, and what gallerists were generally needing and wanting to see. It was always informative.

You want an organization like that if you can find one. Ours took 35% of sales because it was a non-profit. There was a board of directors and two paid employees: a director and a gallery manager/assistant director. No one on the board was paid of course. They were usually donors in fact.

The way it worked was each monthly group show had a revolving outside juror who would pick the artwork. The show would often have a theme, but it would be loose enough for most people in the membership to enter something. You could submit one or two pieces. You still needed to be chosen. It was never guaranteed. But submitting frequently was encouraged so you'd have better chances.

The membership pool was never over 250-300 artists. People could apply to get into the association twice a year. It worked on a blind panel, and you were chosen based on your visuals only.

Anyway, it was a GREAT way to network. That was the magic key to helping my career get started, i.e. getting to know who did what in the scene, who ran which space, what artists made which sort of art, and getting involved in critique groups too. It was all very helpful!

Do as much research as you can and find one that offers as much of this kind of stuff as possible.

I hope some of this info was of some use. :)
Ayin, I know you truly "paid your dues" to get where you are in the art market. That's a great sounding association. Not aware of anything anywhere near that in my part of the SF Bay Area, but I will look for those characteristics. Thanks.
Thanks Bart. I feel I had a lot of help and opportunities that I got to take advantage of and did a lot of research. I think anyone could do the same thing. ;)
In my view,
Art societies can offer many benefits for established artists and those just starting out in their careers. They provide opportunities for artists to connect with other professionals in the field, exhibit their work, and gain exposure to a broader audience.

One of the main benefits of art societies is the opportunity to network with other artists. This can lead to collaborations, exhibitions, and other professional opportunities. Many art societies also offer mentorship programs, where established artists can share their knowledge and experience with emerging artists. This can be incredibly valuable for those just starting out in their careers, as it allows them to learn from more experienced artists and gain insight into the industry.
I belonged to an "art club" in our area, and I found it to be not only interesting, and informative, but our club also had an art show about twice a year, depending upon where we could find a venue for our art. I was the VP, in charge of programs. "Programs" primarily included my hiring of prominent artists in the area to give about an hour's worth of demonstration to our members, at our meeting. It is basically the item that drew members to our meetings.

We also held shows, as I mentioned, at which we could hang prices on our work, and sell it, it to anyone in the browsing public. But, my primary source for painting sales was a couple of local art shows that I entered each year. I was fortunate enough to have received a couple of "Best of Shows" from one show, and one, "Best of Show" from another. There was also the AZ State Fair, both of which yielded award money, and I probably sold a dozen or more paintings at the one show, with prices anywhere from $600 to $1200. depending upon size and content.

So, I would say that local shows are good to enter, to sell, and win cash awards. and......local art clubs whose dues are usually quite reasonable, also hold shows that can turn a bit of profit for their members. Be aware that local shows, as well as art club shows often ask for a commission on your sales, so you need to price your work accordingly.

But, "art shows", and "art clubs" are not the only venues for selling your art, I used to hang my art in everything from Veterinary offices, to pet shops and coffee shops. I sold 4 paintings out of a barber show, and 11 paintings out of a very small, local coffee shop. Once again......these places often ask for commissions, so price your work accordingly.

Hang your art in places that people frequent. Doctors' offices, restaurants, coffee shops, hotel lobbies, pet stores (if you do animal paintings). barber shops--anything is "fair game", and some of them can be quite profitable to you, in your retirement. Painting is fun, and I love it! Next to playing music with bluegrass, and country bands, it is the best "hobby" I've ever had. Every hobby I've ever had has paid for itself, and then some. GO FOR IT!

The least price for which I've sold a painting was $1. The biggest price for which I've sold a painting is $2,000. There's a story behind each of these sales. Ask me privately, please, and I'd be pleased to discuss that with you.
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