Introducing… The Arts Society

(Happy 50th!)

This week some friends in the sector are having a birthday bash; so we asked Chief Exec, Florian Schweizer and team to tell us more about their work, their plans - and the Extraordinary Woman who started it all!

© The Arts Society - Presenting local school children with a newly opened Children’s Trail at St Bartholomew’s Church, Haslemere

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What is The Arts Society, in a nutshell?

The Arts Society (previously NADFAS) is a leading arts education charity with a global network of 385 local Societies, which bring people together through a shared curiosity for the arts. Our events provide welcoming places – locally, nationally and globally – for everyone to hear expert lecturers share their specialist knowledge about the arts.

With 90,000+ members who contribute to and preserve our artistic heritage through volunteering and grants, The Arts Society works to create a better, healthier and more connected society.

Arts Society volunteers work across the UK and abroad, preserving heritage in country houses, museums and galleries, recording the contents of churches and enthusing children and young people in the arts. The images here depict a range of recent activities undertaken by Arts Society volunteers.

Any special birthday plans?

Cleaning instruments at the Museum of Army Music, Twickenham.

We have all sorts of events planned to celebrate our Golden Jubilee. They embrace one overriding theme; enriching lives through the arts.

  • The year kicked off with a major exhibition ‘Rhythm & Reaction; The Age of Jazz in Britain’ at Two Temple Place, a magnificent Neo-Gothic mansion on London’s Victoria Embankment.
  • On 16th May, 1,800 guests will attend a Celebration of the Arts at Westminster Abbey. The commemorative service will be an opportunity for the Society to thank members and volunteers who are at the heart of the organisation. The service will contain readings by acclaimed actor and theatre director, Simon Callow and singer/songwriter and broadcaster, Cerys Matthews. It will also feature performances of new compositions by London based jazz troupe, Kansas Smitty's feat. Mike Garry, and composer Matthew Sheeran.

Helping out as a Welcomer at the Design Museum, London

  • We will soon be announcing a major new international Arts Award which, judged by an independent panel, will award £75,000 over a three-year period (starting in 2019) to arts organisations that have made an outstanding contribution to arts education.
  • This summer we’ll be holding a series of lectures in NewcastleGateshead as part of the Great Exhibition of the North’s Inspired By programme.
  • In the autumn a new grants scheme will be launched, which will award an extra £50,000 before the end of the jubilee year and we will be holding a symposium at the Wellcome Collection on the theme of Intergenerational Arts.
  • Local Societies are holding their own celebratory events; many are taking part in ArtsFest – a rare opportunity for the Society’s members to show off their artistic talents, Societies will partner with museums, galleries and heritage sites across the UK and abroad to offer unique events for members of the public. These events will highlight the treasures in their collections, as well as The Arts Society’s volunteers and the wonderful work they do.

How can we find out more?

An Extraordinary Woman: Patricia Fay (Founder Chair) with Lally Robinson (Vice-Chair)

Visit our website to search for upcoming events near you! You can become a member of your local society, or for just £10 a year, join us as a Supporter to receive invitations to exclusive member events and courses, special offers and concessions, our regular newsletter and our beautiful quarterly arts magazine, full of news, views, events and artist profiles.

We're celebrating Extraordinary Women (past and present) this year, is there anyone you'd like to nominate?

Without hesitation, that would be our Founder Chairman, Patricia Fay, who along with a group of forward thinking young women, was eager to be educated about the arts.

They organised an event in which Miss D.K. Millington discussed her collection of Victorian tea spoons in a lecture entitled ‘Small antiques in our homes’, which was held at Chenies Manor in 1965. To her surprise, so many people flocked to the event that more chairs had to be found and Mrs Fay, with a hit on her hands, was asked to organise more. And she encouraged others to do the same. From the modest beginnings of the Chiltern Antiques Group, a movement grew: local groups of enthusiasts established themselves as Societies and in 1968 grouped together as the National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies which held its inaugural meeting at the V&A.