After going through several periods of organisational change a new Manitoba Society of Artists emerged in 1925 with an executive consisting of Alex J. Musgrove as secretary and Walter J. Phillips as president. In 1926 the first annual exhibition was held in the Richardson Brothers Gallery on Main Street in Winnipeg. Since then, except for a few years, the society has sponsored an annual open juried exhibition in various locations including at the Eaton’s and Hudson’s Bay Company stores, the Pool of the Black Star Gallery at the Manitoba Legislative Building, the Mennonite Heritage Centre Gallery, Warehouse Artworks Gallery, the Winnipeg Civic Auditorium, and the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Other programs have included annual juried exhibitions, lectures, art history conferences and other member events.
Today, the purpose of the Society is to promote and encourage Manitoba’s emerging and professional visual artists. Members of the Society exhibit together, enjoy social events and participate in educational ventures, such as lectures, slide presentations and workshops. However, the important event of each year is the Provincial Annual Open Juried Competition and Exhibition, which allows both emerging and professional artists an equal opportunity to participate in a major exhibition.
In 1992 the Manitoba Society of Artists hosted their 60th Anniversary Juried exhibition. This celebration was held at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. In 2002 the MSA celebrated its 100th anniversary with an exhibition of work by current members, a commemorative banquet and an art history conference with a focus on Manitoba art. Also, in conjunction, the Winnipeg Art Gallery hosted an exhibition of historical work by MSA members, acknowledging the major contribution of the MSA in the arts community and in the formation of the WAG.
2012 was the year of MSA’s 110th anniversary and the Centenary of the WAG. In recognition of its intertwined roots and history with the WAG, MSA’s 80th open juried exhibit was hosted at the WAG in April of that year. MSA’ s anniversary celebrations continued with this MSA110 members show in July that is was panorama of the works of 50 member artists. MSA110 Years fittingly highlighted a retrospect as well as a futuristic approach to our art.
The MSA 110th anniversary celebrations concluded with a public Art History Conference at the WAG. The theme, “minds Eye: making art work” explored the illusions spanning cultures and time that lead to artistic truth”.
Throughout its history the Society has depended largely upon the volunteer efforts of its membership. Its membership was originally comprised of “painters, sculptors, architects, artistic engravers, draughtsmen and designers”, residing in Manitoba or temporarily residing elsewhere, and membership was determined by a selection committee which judged submitted work of prospective members.
Although the specifics of membership have changed over the years, members have always been chosen by a jury and needed to be practising Manitoban artists. Some notable past members of the Society have included L.L. Fitzgerald, Eric Bergman, Leo Mol, Alex J. Musgrove, Clarence Tellenius, Walter J. Phillips, Lynn Sissons, Kelly Clark, Caroline Dukes, Tony Tascona and Robert Bruce. Barbara Cook-Endres, who joined the club in 1948, was its longtime secretary until her retirement in 2008.
Currently MSA retains an active membership of 103 artists from diverse backgrounds and training. New art forms consistently present themselves to the pool of artistic discussion.
The art world has greatly evolved during the past century, and MSA has had to reinvent itself several times. Since the 1950’s there are enduring challenges of competition for both monetary support and exhibition space with other arts groups. The evolution of media such as photography and digital art have contributed to the discourse of membership in the society.
The MSA continues to promote an atmosphere in which art can be and continues to be created. The development of northern/prairie art and artists, the fostering of an artistic milieu, the promotion of the value of art to the community, all these are vital concerns that help MSA perform our duty towards art. In this manner we hope to perpetuate a visual voice that reaches long into the future.