Photo by Grand Canyon National Park, Creative Commons, Attribution 2.0 Generic

Being an artist can be lonely at times and an artist association is the perfect way to meet other artists, find friendship, and gain support. Not to mention, they also offer tons of opportunities to showcase your artwork and improve your skillset.

But, how do you choose the perfect art association for you? From location and size to medium and member benefits, there’s a lot to consider and it can be hard to pinpoint the perfect fit.

We recommend following these four steps to narrow down the right art association for you. Then you can dive right in and enjoy all the professional and personal benefits that come with artist association membership.

“When choosing the right association, research and find out what they’re about.” -Debra Joy Groesser

1. Consider Close to Home or Nationwide

We recommend deciding on an artist association’s size and location first. Are you looking to be part of a huge national organization and are excited to travel to events? Or, are you looking for something closer to home? Consider the travel involved, the number of events, and if you want an association with a meeting spot or center you can visit regularly.

National associations like Oil Painters of America welcome artists from all over the country, as does the Portrait Society of America. Then there are state-based groups such as Plein Air Artists Colorado and the California Art Club.

If that’s too big, you can narrow it down to smaller associations in your state, such as the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance. You can get even more niche if you want one that caters just to your city, like the Laguna Plein Air Painters Association or the Boulder Art Association.

Photo by Grand Canyon National Park, Creative Commons, Attribution 2.0 Generic

2. Muse on Medium vs. Style

Now you’ve decided on where you want the artist association to be located, next you’ll want to decide on its focus. You’ll want to look to see if they concentrate on your medium or your style.

For instance, the American Impressionist Society take artists that work in watercolor, acrylic, oil, and gouache. Their group is more about style, and less about medium. On the other hand, the San Diego Watercolor Society was created specifically for watercolor artists, regardless of style.

Debra Joy Groesser, President and CEO of the American Impressionist Society stresses, “Make sure the organization that you’re looking to join fits with your medium and style.”

Photo by Grand Canyon National Park, Creative Commons, Attribution 2.0 Generic

3. Explore the Events and Programs Offered

Now you’ve whittled it down to the location and type, you’ll want to explore the different kinds of events and programs offered. Consider the following questions:

  • Do they offer member-only juried shows and if so, how many?

  • How many meetings do they hold, or do they even hold meetings?

  • Do they host group art making events such as paint outs?

  • Do they hold business of art panels and bring in speakers?

  • Do they offer workshops and demos to help you enhance your skills?

  • Do they offer critiques by experts?

  • Do they offer mentorships?

  • What are the costs of the programs and events?

Going over these questions will help you decide what you’re looking to gain and enjoy from an artist association.

Photo by Grand Canyon National Park, Creative Commons, Attribution 2.0 Generic

4. Peruse the Member Perks

Most artist associations offer membership benefits and list them on their website. Take a look to see if they match with your art career interests and goals.

The American Impressionist Society, for instance, offers perks such as complimentary paint outs, demos, and educational seminars during their juried show; a Facebook group exclusive to AIS members; and a discount to Artwork Archive.

Boulder Art Association provides their members with the opportunity to display and promote their art in local businesses and art project workspace. You can read their full member benefits here.

The cost of overall membership is often included in the “Membership” section of artist association websites. Most ask for yearly membership dues. Weighing the price against the perks will help you decide if it’s the right association for you.

Curious how artist associations can advance your art career? Read 3 Wonderful Ways Artist Associations Benefit Your Career.