In the bleakest days of the Second World War, around 1942/43, the Government founded a body known as the CEMA (the Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts). This was intended to ensure that interest in the arts was maintained in the provinces, and at the same time to give a boost to civilian morale. Artists, Exhibitions and Films were organised in London, but local organisations were needed arrange the necessary venues, etc.
Out of this grew, by 1947, the well known Worcester SAMA (Society for the Advancement of Music and the Arts). It consisted of five groups ? Music, Drama, Visual Arts, Film and Literature ? with each group having its own Chairman and Committee, as well as being individually represented on the General Committee. The Visual Arts Group was launched, and had its first meeting on May 8th 1947.
Early meetings were held at the Victoria Institute, and various rooms in the City Art Gallery, Museum and Library. Eventually, in 1956, the group moved to St Alban?s, a small church now known as Magg?s Day Centre by the Tech College. Despite the problems with the heating, the club stayed there for the next 9 years.
Despite their difficulties in the early years, the SAMA went from strength to strength during the 1960?s, and eventually in 1965 the Visual Arts Group, as Worcester Society of Artists, drew up its own constitution, under the direct patronage of the Mayor and the City Council. This was as a direct result of its links to the Swan Theatre, which opened at this time. The first meeting held, as WSA, was on April 28th, 1965.
The WSA played a considerable part in the founding of the Swan Theatre, and were granted a regular meeting place in their rehearsal room. With this the society undertook to provide art exhibitions for the theatre in the auditorium and bar. This tradition continues to this day, and the display is changed every two months.
With the threatened closure of the Swan in 2003 the Society had to look for other accommodation. There was a short initial move to the Worcester Arts Workshop, before the Mission Hall on Bromwich Road became our new home.
Membership was over 150 during the 70?s and, immediately prior to the move, the club had about 120 members. This was a disruptive period, and the numbers fell to 75 in 2004, the year following our departure from the Swan, but the club has now attracted a sustainable number of members and is looking to a bright future.
The Society has an Annual Exhibition at Worcester Art Gallery, which has occurred every year of their existence. This is the highlight of the club?s year and is open to all members, however inexperienced. There is also the permanent display in The Swan Theatre, one in the Worcester Guildhall, and a number of other exhibitions each year.
There are no qualifying tests for new members as the basic principle is to encourage the appreciation of art, so members will range from complete beginners to accomplished artists, but the majority fall into the category of enthusiastic amateurs. While there is no formal teaching within the group, all members will learn from each other during their time with us.
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Artwork gallery Mr Peter Bailes
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