In general art groups and organizations fill a myriad of purposes, from providing exhibition and networking opportunities, to promoting a particular medium or discipline, to improving communities, fostering advocacy and raising awareness. More specifically, artist organizations are usually founded by artists in order to provide help and support for fellow artists. Since artists often know what artists need better than anyone, at some point in their careers they may feel compelled to launch one. This article focuses on taking the first steps to launching an artist group or organization.
I have firsthand experience in this area, having founded an organization as an art student, and later as the founder/director of Manhattan Arts International and The Healing Power of ART & ARTISTS — both of which have curated online gallery membership programs. Throughout my career as an artist advocate and mentor I’ve served on the board of directors and as an advisor for several art organizations.
If you have a powerful desire to help fellow artists I strongly encourage you to consider creating an artist group or organization to fulfill those needs.
Although a lot of thought, preparation, organization, time, energy and stamina are required to initiate and sustain an art group over the long haul it is worth every minute.
Find Your Source of Motivation and Inspiration
The first step is to determine your source of motivation. For me, as a young art student, I spent a lot of time commiserating with fellow artists about being unable to penetrate what we called the “Ivory Towers” of the NYC gallery system. My motivation was to abolish the subservient positions artists had in their relationships with dealers and empower them to become self-supportive artists.
So, I launched Artopia with a mission: To exhibit and sell local artists’ work in alternative spaces; to educate artists about the business of being an artist; and to educate the public about art appreciation. In a short period of time I had more than 100 members. By the way, I started it with a $25 classified ad the Village Voice with a call to artists to join.
Whatever the size of your group you can begin solving a problem and filling a need. An organization for artists can provide one or more services. It can fight discrimination, raise consciousness, support worthy causes through art, obtain group health insurance for artists, offer art supply discounts, foster camaraderie; provide exhibition opportunities; and bring recognition to new artistic movements.
Begin With Your Mission Statement
The most successful organizations begin planning the logistics of its organization. They have a clear vision and purpose, and formulate that into a mission statement. Basically, a mission statement explains why your organization exists.
If you are planning to create a nonprofit organization, you will be required to have a mission statement. However, even if you are creating a for-profit organization, a mission statement will help you to focus your organization and define your purpose.
Mission statements are typically one or two sentences (though some organizations have three or more).
The statement should clearly define what the organization’s purpose is, who will be most served by the organization and generally how the mission will be accomplished (e.g. exhibitions, educational activities, technical training, etc.).
When drafting your mission statement, it may be helpful to define the perimeter of your organization. For instance, will your organization target a specific region, medium, style, age group, gender or career level or will it be open to all artists and all media?
The purpose of your mission statement is two-fold. Certainly you want to create a statement that conveys the purpose of your organization to the artists and/or community the organization serves, but you also want to clarify your mission so that you and your organization’s employees and volunteers can make better choices for projects and endeavors where the organization should focus its efforts.
For examples of mission statements from well-known artist organizations visit the pages on this website:
Helpful Art Organizations and Resources
Valuable Art Organizations For Artists
Organizations That Advance The Status of Women Artists
Determine What You’ll Do to Achieve Your Purpose
The fun part is planning what you’ll do to achieve your purpose, in line with your mission statement. To accomplish my goals with Artopia, we filled walls and stages with art and performances throughout the city. I arranged interactive, educational exhibitions in diverse venues ranging from bank and corporate lobbies, to Lincoln Center, to community centers, to the famous nightclub Studio 54. I also held art marketing workshops for artists led by experts in art business. I organized artist studio tours for art enthusiasts to learn more about art and artists and for artists to meet art buyers.
Most of all, we filled a void and made a difference, for artists to increase their feeling of camaraderie, self-esteem, sales and careers. I learned firsthand what Margaret Meade stated, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Most importantly, understand where your organization fits in the world of other arts organizations and be able to evaluate the organization’s effectiveness. That means you’ll need to have measurable goals and objectives.
This article focuses on the benefits and procedures for choosing a for-profit arts organization or a nonprofit organization.