The Value of Joining Art Societies
By Wes Siegrist
Have you ever wondered why artists are members of art societies? Why do they make that effort and assume, in most cases, annual membership dues expense? Personal reasons may vary but mostly they fall into these specific reasons: exhibition opportunities, recognition by peers of a level of quality in an artist’s work, camaraderie with like-minded artists, an outlet for contributing to the future of the chosen art and for some, an opportunity to serve in leadership. All of these reasons have played a part in our choices to join different groups. Over the years we’ve been part of so many local, regional, national and even international organizations. As our business has matured and changed we’ve opted to drop some and join others. We recently scaled back in participation with some groups and are now down to a core that we value most. Here’s a list featuring most of our current affiliations with insights on why they matter to us.
Founded in 1960, the SAA is the oldest and most prestigious organization of animal artists in the world. Their reputation and membership roster place them on the “want to join” list of nearly all artists specializing in fauna of the natural world. Artists featuring both wild and/or domestic animals, birds, insects, reptiles and amphibians covet becoming a part of this group. This was true of us when we first became aware of them back in the mid-1990s. At the time, Rachelle was specializing in human portraiture so her interests were mostly elsewhere. I, however, compiled a sample of my work for jury consideration and hoped for favorable results. (A majority of SAA Signature Members serving on the jury must vote “yes”) In the late 1990s, the SAA only had one category of membership, Signature. Regretfully, I didn’t make it. Nor did I receive good news with my resubmission the following year. Ditto with the third attempt. By the 4th time I submitted in 2000, Rachelle had switched back to focusing on wildlife art. We had also both become enamored with miniatures and were working towards specializing solely in that field. Juries in those days were looking at projected slides so we knew our tiny paintings would be seen at hundreds of times their original size making our goal even more challenging! The GREAT news arrived in the fall of 2000 – both of us had been accepted as Signature Members of the Society of Animal Artists! We still consider our membership with the SAA as our top artistic honor, improved only by our success with the always changing, and more difficult to impress, selection juries for the SAA’s Annual Exhibition and Tour. I have served as the SAA’s webmaster since 2001, been on the Board of Directors since 2012, served on various committees and served as a juror several times. I became one of the SAA’s Vice-Presidents at the start of this year. One of our most anticipated trips each year is to attend the annual Art & The Animal Exhibition opening weekend!
I’m delighted to have been part of 14 SAA Annual Exhibitions, featured in 11 of the associated tours and included in all the small works shows with the Society. Rachelle has been part of 13 Annuals, 11 tours as well as every small work show. She further has been honored with two awards in the 2005 SAA exhibition including the Society’s most prestigious: The Award of Excellence!
MASF is one of many societies founded since 1970 as part of a resurgent “second wave” of interest in historical miniature art. We serendipitously stumbled across them in late 1997 and had our lives and career forever altered. Rachelle’s painting, “Mockingbird”, had received an award in the 1999 exhibition and been purchased for the MASF Permanent Collection so we decided to attend the show. It was awe inspiring and so much fun! We had found a new “family” of artists and friends and subsequently decided to focus our business solely on miniature painting. My painting,”Highlands Hammock”, was acquired by MASF for the Permanent Collection in 2000 and both of us were featured in the Society’s publication Catalogue Of The Permanent Collection published in 2000. Our paintings have been selected by the jury 18 years running with one or both of us receiving awards annually. Rachelle has won the MASF BEST OF SHOW twice in 2005 and 2008! We’ve served twice on the Society’s Jury of Selection and I’ve worked as the MASF webmaster since 2005. We also try to attend the annual opening of the show each January and have only missed a few. MASF is an open society. Anyone can join simply by paying dues.
Founded in 1985, MAA is the world’s only society dedicated to honoring practitioners of miniature art. It is international in scope with the caveat that miniaturists are recognized for their work exhibited in accredited miniature art society exhibitions within the United States. Historically, this included five different groups in Washington D.C., New Jersey, Florida, Georgia and Montana. Today, only the societies in D.C. and FL remain. Signature Membership is conferred by a majority vote of an annually rotating Signature Member Jury (4 of 5 votes necessary). To earn candidacy, a miniaturist must have participated in at least eight competitive shows staged by MAA accredited major nonprofit miniature societies in the United States within the previous five years and must have received awards from these shows. Obviously, this is a coveted honor by miniaturists and one that involves both dedication and patience. We both received this cherished honor in 2004.
We took part in the 2004 and 2008 MAA Traveling Exhibitions as well as all subsequent World Federation of Miniaturists Exhibitions via the MAA in The Smithsonian in Washington D.C. (2004), Australia (2008) and in Russia (2012). We’ve served several times on the selection jury and Rachelle was the Membership Chair from 2009 to 2011. I’ve served as webmaster since 2005, Traveling Exhibition Coordinator 2006 to 2014 and Historian 2008 to date. In 2010, working with the other officers of the MAA, I wrote and published Modern Masters of Miniature Art in America to celebrate the Society’s 25th Anniversary. The book comprehensively covers the topic of miniature art past and present and features 53 MAA Signature Members including us.
Founded in 1931, MPSGS is one of two remaining miniature art societies in the world that were established to foster and promote miniature art. The other, The Royal Society of Miniature Painters, Sculptors & Gravers (RMS) was the first such organization founded in 1896. Prior to this time miniature art had been decimated, convoluted and confused with the modern rage of the time, photography. The RMS and MPSGS are the sole surviving societies from the initial wave of revival in miniature art. We started participating in MPSGS exhibitions in 2000 and have been part annually since that time. (16 years) We’ve also received numerous awards participating in these exhibitions. I served as the show judge in 2010.
You Can Help!
Most of these societies have supporting membership categories available for artists and non-artists. Benefits, beyond knowing you’re helping to foster and promote financially these groups, include newsletters, invitations to exhibitions and more. Please visit the Societies’ websites for more information or just ask us!