The New York Society of Women Artists (NYSWA) was founded in 1925 and devoted itself to avant-garde women artists. The organization had 23 painters and sculptors, all recognized as professionals. Four of the original members participated in the Armory Show, some were members of the Whitney Studio Club and the Society of Independent Artists. We can boast of members' Guggenheim Fellowships, Prix de Rome, and engagement with the Federal Arts Project during the New Deal. As a Society, artists had more support and exhibition opportunities.
Critical response to NYSWA's exhibitions was overwhelmingly favorable, and a review in Art News described the group as a "battalion of Amazons that is surely unbeatable". The support of women artists in a largely male profession gave the individuals more clout. In 1987, ACA gallery commemorated the organization with an exhibition and catalogue.
The mavericks of the 1920's inhabited a different world than out youngest members. "Painting Professionals", a book by Kirsten Swinth describes NYSWA and the lives of young women artists.
Today, NYSWA is an intergenerational organization of 46 active members. Many of us began to make our mark in the 1960's and forward, in the heart of New York City life. We aim to maintain a clear focus on art itself, and more specifically on making public the fine works of talented women, in galleries, cultural spaces, museums, embassies and other quality venues.
The late Theresa Bernstien was one of the earliest members and also considered a member of the Ash Can school. She painted until the age of 110. In 2014, she had a major retrospective at both The City University of New York Graduate Center and at Baruch College (CUNY). This show was curated by professor Gail Levin, and a scholarly catalogue was published.
Nowadays, young women of all backgrounds have opportunities to study and to exhibit art. The NYSWA's refined jurying system welcomes both diversity and quality.
The art world has also evolved as technology has changed the commerce of art. The artist needs to be an individual entrepreneur and use both the traditional gallery system and social media, to increase one's visibility. The gallery system itself has changed. Many physical locations closed as a major part of the market happens around the international art fairs (Basel, Venice, Armory, Miami Basel, etc).
In the context of such an ever-changing profession, NYSWA, with its illustrious past, awareness and vitality, aims to be the eye of the hurricane to support and inspire women artists.
Yours, Diana Freedman-Shea, NYSWA President.