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In 1956, the same group of people who founded the nation's first Arts Council here in Winston-Salem also formed Associated Artists with the idea that artists' work must be exhibited to be truly appreciated. At that time, exhibits were held in churches and the lawn of the public library, hallways, parlors and city offices. As participation grew, AAWS acquired its own corner storefront gallery and office space on W. 4th Street's "restaurant row." They offered art-related trips, in-school programs, workshops, lectures, demonstrations, gift shop, fundraising galas and hosted an annual National Juried Competition. At one time, there were over 600 members with a very active volunteer base. Besides gallery shows, the Community Exhibit Program put art into many businesses, restaurants and facilities around the city.

In time, the need to decrease expenses, including significant rent increases, prompted AAWS to move to Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts on North Spruce Street. Associated Artists continued its mission: "To give art a chance to be seen, by giving it a place to be shown." Besides exhibits at Milton Rhodes, other gallery spaces were utilized, some as "pop-ups" in varied locations, and at events such as the Dixie Classic Fair and the Winston-Salem Open. We had annual shows at the Spine Gallery of Wake Forest Medical Center, and the Keener Gallery of the Allegacy Credit Union Headquarters. Additional year-round gallery space was also acquired: the Salem Foyer of the Benton Convention Center and the Wachovia Gallery at the Masonic Center of Winston-Salem.

Hard times came in 2018 that might have been the end for AAWS except for a few diehard volunteers. They kept the mission going, weathering the storm of no money, no office, the loss of a major gallery space... and then COVID restrictions. Membership fell off in the confusion, but exhibits didn't stop. The Community Exhibit Program never faltered either, though several locations closed during COVID. AAWS soldiered on, starting from the ground up once again. Today, over 65 years after its founding, as old members return and new artists join, AAWS is experiencing a rebirth with new technologies for a new generation, still celebrating and supporting artists from beginners to professionals and everywhere in between.

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Associated Artists of Winston-Salem, Inc.

251 North Spruce Street
Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27101
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