Monday, December 14, 2015

How to become a member of an art society - Part 1

A lot of artists like to get the letters after their name which mean they are a signature member of a prestigious art society.  For many this also helps them to get a 'proper art gallery' to represent them.

However first you need to become a member of the art society - or an associate member.

This post is a plea to some of the more prestigious art societies to make the information about how to become a member rather more accessible. If there's one criticism I'd have about art society websites it's that they can be very biased towards members. This can mean they are not tested with respect to how well they provide information for their external audience. In some cases they provide information badly, in others they don't provide it at all - and very few provide the information simply and clearly.

So here's a round-up of how easy it is to find out how to become a member of various art societies in the UK.

the entrance to the Mall Galleries
I'm starting with the societies which are members of the Federation of British Artists based at the Mall Galleries as these are some of the oldest art societies in the UK.

Subsequent posts will be about other art societies.

FBA Societies - how to become a member

Below I provide a quick summary of:
  • whether the "how to join" information exists online
  • where to find it - and specifically whether there is a clear signpost on the home page
  • whether or not the process is explained simply and clearly. 

New English Art Club

There is no dedicated menu item related to joining this club on the home page - which means searching for where it might be.
  • However - there is in fact NO information whatsoever on the website about how to become a member on the website
  • However the Enquiries Page does provide a a contact name address and email address for the person who looks after people interested in becoming members

One wonders why NEAC don't put the information on the website and reduce the burden on the Committee member who volunteers to deal with queries....

The Pastel Society 

The website is being updated and the one page they have up at present does not include the information. Hopefully the new website will!

Royal Institute of Oil Painters

There is no information on the website about how to become a member.

I'm aware that the website is in a process of transition - and hopefully this will be addressed in the near future.

    Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours

    The RI has a dedicated page in the main menu - How to Join. It is basic, short and very clear how the process works. It's a page which others could do with emulating!

    It provides:
    • a simple explanation of 
      • how decisions are made on membership and 
      • how the application process works
    • a contact person and email address for queries

    Royal Society of British Artists

    This society has a dedicated page Joining the RBA
    • It mixes up the criteria for admission with a description of the process (and the page could do with an edit to separate these out)
    • However it's reasonably clear what artists need to do and how they can strengthen their application for membership

    Royal Society of Marine Artists

    There's a clearly signposted "Membership Queries" link to a dedicated page on the Home Page.
    • This is a dedicated page providing detailed information
    • The page is transparent in terms of:
      • making it clear that your exhibiting record contributes to assessment of an application for membership
      • the records that the RSMA keep on people who submit work via the open entry
      • the two-stage process for moving from applicant to associate to member
      • the fact that the membership panel changes each year (a very healthy sign of an art society which has thought carefully of the pros and cons of different approaches for assessment for membership)
      • the emphasis the RSMA places on applicants understanding that it's about making a contribution to the life of the society and not just about being able to exhibit more paintings

    Royal Society of Portrait Painters

    There is no dedicated signpost on 'how to join' on the front page
    • How to become a member of the RP is under the 'For Artists' menu item
    • The description of the initial part of the process about becoming a candidate for membership is fairly clear 
    • However it peters out once people have got to the 'Candidate' stage and there is no explanation of how the process works in terms of moving forward from 'candidate' to 'member'. Presumably this is explained in a letter to candidates but it would be very useful to ALSO have an outline on the website

    Society of Wildlife Artists

    The Membership Page is clearly signposted on the home page
    • It's transparent about the three categories of membership - Artist, Associate and Honorary
    • It provides a very full explanation of the costs and benefits for each category of membership - and provides the best explanation of all the societies in this respect. 
    • The SWLA is the only society which is completely transparent about its annual membership fee online. Personally I think this is admirable as I'm guessing some individuals might think twice about applying for membership if they knew the financial commitment they were applying to incur!
    Incidentally this is a society which places an emphasis on the Friends Membership - and it's probably no coincidence that it has a a considerable following and gets a healthy turnout to all its exhibitions, generally good sales.

    This is a page which other art societies would do well to take a good look at.

    Open Exhibitions by UK Art Societies

    Admission to membership is heavily dependent on the submission of works via the open entry. You can find out more about how to do this in my page on this blog about UK National Art Societies: Open Exhibitions 2016

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