Artists Guilds: Helping Artists Develop and Sell Their Work

Article excerpt

Artistry in New Jersey's Woodbridge Township is thriving, thanks in part to the Woodbridge Artisan Guild (WAG). The nonprofit arts cooperative, nestled among neighborhood businesses on the towns Main Street, features art in many forms, from sculpture and painting to glasswork and photography. A variety of pieces adorns the walls and lines the perimeter, and the guild has furnished studio space in the rear to host classes and event receptions.

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Since its inception in 2009, WAG has supported and nurtured the visual arts, increased awareness and appreciation, and provided artists with opportunities to develop and sell their work. And it's not alone in its mission. Artists guilds exist nationwide in small communities and large cities alike. Although many have been around for decades, more and more are cropping up with each passing year.

"Most of our members are emerging artists who have never shown their work in public. Here, they can get feedback and confidence," notes Glenn Murgacz, metal sculptor and current WAG president. "As artists, we enjoy discussing art and learning from one another."

Mountain Artists Guild and Gallery (MAGG) in Prescott, Ariz., holds the same sentiment. Established in 1949, MAGG is one of the oldest artists guilds in the state and includes painters, sculptors, ceramicists, wood turners and more among its membership.

"We've grown significantly since our early days, but we're still essentially about the sharing of ideas and supporting one another," says Donna Carver, a painter, printmaker and mixed-media artist who sits on MAGG's board of directors and gallery committee and serves as liaison between the two entities. "Our members get to broaden their experience and become more professional as artists. We can help them put together a portfolio and mount and frame pieces and also teach them about what's involved with customer sales."

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Business skills aside, all artists need ways and places to network and display their work as a means toward potential sales. Some artists guilds sponsor or co-sponsor community-based shows featuring members' art, and some join forces with restaurants and other area merchants to bring exhibits into the neighborhood. Others, such as WAG and MAGG, also have their own buildings that include gallery space.

The Rockford Art Guild (RAG) in Illinois, formed in 1955 and located about 90 miles from Chicago, meets monthly at a local lunch spot. It does not pay a fee to do so; in exchange for the room, it decorates the walls of the coffee shop with art by guild members, varying the artists every month. RAG represents a variety of media--from painting and photography to jewelry and digital art--which it shows at spring and fall ArtScene gallery walks. This year, the guild held its first Downtown Artist/Artisan Market, taking over all three floors of the towns Veterans Memorial Hall.

"We also did some boutique shows, such as a nature-themed show at a new conservatory, and got a lot of good press and exposure," says Barbara Berney, a jewelry and digital artist who just ended her term as president on Sept. …