It’s official! As of October, the vaunted, highly regarded National Association of Women Artists has a statewide chapter fully in place, and it all began with members in Bluffton and on Hilton Head Island.

The story begins with artist and New York City transplant Jennifer Rocco Stone, who moved with her husband to Bluffton just three years ago. Along with her anticipation about life in their new Southern setting, she brought along a goal of adding new layers of artistic accomplishment to her career.

Further, she wanted to ensure that other women artists in the Lowcountry had the opportunity to expand their artistic careers as well.

With that goal in mind, she determined to create the first South Carolina chapter of the National Association of Women Artists (NAWA). “I was aware of the National Association of Women Artists for years, as the national office of the organization is located in New York City,” said Stone. “As a professional artist with a vision, I was convinced that the renowned organization, now 130 years old, would be a tremendous benefit to artists and to the community.”

Stone said the organization offers programs promoting culture and education in the visual arts, exhibitions of members’ works, scholarships, awards, lectures and special events for its membership.

To start the local chapter, 25 women artists from the Bluffton and Hilton Head area were juried in as charter members, through the national office in New York. Each submitted a resume, bio, artist statement and images of their work. Once juried at that level, they were then eligible to join the new South Carolina chapter.

Initial board members were chosen based on their involvement in forming the chapter, Stone said. Suzanne Aulds was named president, with Stone as vice president. Suzanne Fiorino will serve as secretary; Ginny Paternite is treasurer; Mary Burrell is the membership coordinator for the national organization; and Melinda Welker is membership chair. In the future, board members will be elected.

Stone said an outreach is planned for the coming months to seek new members throughout the state.

The chapter’s first exhibit will be held in April 2019 at the University of South Carolina gallery in Beaufort. The theme will be “Transparency.”

NAWA, a not-for-profit organization, was founded in 1889, responding to a concern at a time when women did not have parity with men in the art world. Starting in those early days, the historic group of celebrated members – who, in the interest of furthering the impact of women artists, and at the same time offering inspiration, celebration and encouragement to all women in the arts – included such well known artists as Mary Cassatt, Berthe Morisot and Louise Nevelson.

For more information about the local chapter, call Stone at 973-868-0388.

Nancy K. Wellard of Bluffton writes about local arts and culture.