Enriching the Arts

An Overview of Arts Societies

Organizations support artists; showcase their work

ASA logo 4 black vectorArt societies have existed for as long as people have been creating art, providing a space for artists to meet and share their ideas and artwork. These societies can have a local, provincial, national or even international scope.

Often these organizations grant different types of membership to artists in the society, depending on participation and professionalism. Members of the society often have to meet stringent guidelines before gaining full membership in their organization.

For example, to become a full member of the Alberta Society of Artists a selection of artwork must be juried by selected members of the Society. However, different societies have different rules for membership.

A Look at some Notable Arts Societies

Although the Alberta Society of Artists has an extensive history, with the foundation of the Society dating back to 1931, there are many notable arts societies around the world that have existed for an even longer period of time.

One example is the Royal Society of British Artists (RBA), founded in 1823. At the beginning, the RBA had only 27 participants, but the numbers steadily increased throughout the following years.

In the present day, the RBA exhibits artwork through Britain. The requirements to become a member include having shown artwork at 3-4 of the Society’s annual exhibitions and election by a blind vote of all members present at the annual general meeting.


The original members of the Ontario Society of Artists.


In Canada, the Ontario Society of Artists (OSA) is the oldest continually operating art society. Founded in 1872 with the mission to establish a provincial art museum and art school. Now with a permanent meeting space in Toronto, the OSA continues to promote the visual arts throughout the province.

To become a full member of the OSA, artists must submit artwork that they have created within the last 5 years to the jurying process. Jury members look for technical competence, individuality of approach to the chosen subject, and quality of process while making their decisions.

The Many Roles of an Arts Society

Artists form societies for a variety of reasons. One of the foremost reasons is the desire to form relationships with other artists, exchange ideas, share artwork and collaborate on certain artistic endeavours.

Activism and advocacy on behalf of the visual arts community is also a driving force behind the formation of several artist societies. The Ontario Society of Artists was initially formed to advocate for more arts resources in the province.

Through exhibiting, advocating and collaborating, societies such as the Royal Society of British Artists, the Ontario Society of Artists and the Alberta Society of Artists support the growth and emergence of new and emerging artists, providing a community where they can grow.

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