The Newburyport Art Association was founded in 1948. The Association brought together artists under the leadership of Sam Sargent, a painter, art teacher and native of Newburyport. The founding members included Laura Coombs Hills, a member of a flourishing group of aspiring women artists in nineteenth-century Boston. She rose to national prominence as a painter of landscapes, pastel floral subjects, and miniatures.
The Association’s first exhibition was held in July 1948 at the old courthouse on Bartlet Mall during “Open House” in Newburyport. They leased space on Threadneedle Alley, State Street and the YWCA before purchasing the building that is our current home at 65 Water Street in 1969. As time went by and the Art Association membership grew, a need for more gallery space became apparent and the Laura Coombs Hills Gallery with a handicapped-accessible entrance was added. The project, a joint collaboration between the NAA and David Hall of Hall and Moskow, was completed in July of 2002.
The building housing the new Laura Coombs Hills gallery was built circa 1890, and was originally a coal yard weigh station located on the property adjacent to the NAA. In later years it was part of the Cashman Bros. Oil Company office and then a dressing room for a local theatre in the 1970’s.
The photograph on the left shows the weigh station being moved to the Art Association building before restoration was started.
Over recent years, the NAA has become the cornerstone of greater Newburyport’s vibrant arts scene with 600 artist and non-artist members from around the region. Artists exhibit work in a full calendar of open, juried, invitational, featured artist and featured interest group shows. In addition, the NAA offers educational programming in foundation classes for artists of all levels and ages, including our well established Wednesday Night Life drawing drop-in studio. (For more information on current offerings, visit our Education page thru the tab above.)
As part of our mission, we support two important community outreach programs – ArtLink & OpArt. ArtLink is possible with the crucial support of The Institution for Savings Charitable Foundation, which has enabled us to partner with area schools to provide programming both in area schools and at the NAA for local students. In addition to IFS, we are very grateful to have the support of individual donors and local businesses whose generosity has allowed us to increase our scholarship offerings for local seniors going on to college and universities, to over $6,500!
Last but not least, our thanks go out to The Hemphill Family Foundation who underwrite a full scholarship to MassArt Summer Studio program for rising juniors and seniors. For more details about MassArt Summer Studio opportunity, click here
A crown jewel in our outreach programs is OpArt, a collaboration with Opportunity Works which provides adults with disabilities hands-on weekly art instruction at both the Newburyport and Haverhill sites. The participating artists have enjoyed growing recognition at the regional and state-wide levels for the quality of artwork created and is widely known for the positive impact it has had on the artists. Sales of their artwork in various retail venues and the summer show in our galleries, support the artists and Opportunity Works, Inc. across Newburyport. The program would not be possible without the loyal support of the Newburyport Bank Charitable Foundation. To see and read more about OpArt click here
Today, the NAA is located along Newburyport’s waterfront, steps from the center of town, in our historic 1795 brick building. Our three galleries and gallery store are open year-round to the general public. Admission is free.
Sam Sargent (1889-1959)
Sam Sargent, a native of Newburyport, was a painter and art teacher. He graduated from the Massachusetts Normal Art School (later, the Massachusetts College of Art). His paintings were selected for an international exhibition in London, and exhibited at the Copley Gallery, Boston, the Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover and the Currier Museum, Manchester, New Hampshire.
Sam Sargent photograph courtesy of The Clark Currier Inn
Laura Coombs Hills (1859-1952)
Among the NAA charter members was Laura Coombs Hills. Born in Newburyport, she was a member of a flourishing group of aspiring women artists in nineteenth-century Boston. She rose to national prominence as a painter of landscapes, pastel floral subjects, and miniatures.
Photos courtesy of The Historical Society of Old Newbury
To read more about our history and download a pdf of “The Newburyport Art Association Story, 1948-2008”, written by Skip & Marge Motes, longtime NAA Artist members and local historians, to commemorate the NAA’s 60th anniversary, click Our Story