Local Groups: Forming an Art, Writing or Tennis Group

saltshaker watercolorSaltshaker watercolor: exercise is draw or paint an everyday object

Do you work from home? Are you retired? Are you a stay-at-home parent that can afford an hour or two of babysitting? If you have a strong interest and some knowledge in a favorite subject, consider starting a local group. Examples of such a group topic could be art, writing, photography, gardening, sewing, tennis, golf, current events, even blogging.

Recently, I decided to set up a group for artists. In an earlier part of my life, I took many art classes, including attending art school at Boston University for one year. I didn’t want a beginner class, and I am not ready to take out the time for a university level academic course. Plus, I wanted to meet others locally who share my interests. When a fellow artist with similar ideas moved back to my area, I decided it was time to set up my artist group. This post will review how I set up the group, and in my guidelines I generalize the steps so they can apply to other subject areas beside art.

How to Set Up a Local Group – a Checklist

  • Identify the Subject – be specific about the group you are forming. I was specifically interested in visual artists. If your topic is too narrow or too broad, you may have a harder time getting other participants. Talk with a friend about your ideas before going public with your request.
  • Find People. Who will join your group? I talked to a few friends and acquaintances locally in order to find other people. I also posted to a local Yahoo group. You will have to investigate how people communicate in your local area if you are unsure how to find others. Maybe there is a place to post at your local supermarket? If you don’t want to reveal personal information such as address or phone number in your public post, consider using throwaway email address as your initial contact information.
  • Pick a Leader. Ideally, you will be the leader of your new group. If you are shy but have a friend who is willing to take on this role, you can delegate this requirement. But to maintain control over how the group will go, be prepared to take on a leadership role. You will need to send out messages to your group. You will also need to decide who talks when and what sorts of activities your group will do when meeting.
  • Study Group Dynamics. In a discussion prior to our first meeting, a friend and I discussed how we would deal with the problem of someone “hogging the floor” and either interrupting or talking to much. Fortunately, this was kept to a minimum in our first meeting. But I have found in past groups, if no one is moderating, others can monopolize the floor too much, and everyone else gets frustrated. Setting guidelines and sticking to them can be a good approach.
  • Pick a Setting. I knew I would be able to hold meetings in my own home, and a friend graciously offered hers as well. If that is not possible, find out if there is a local space your group could use, ideally for free.
  • Connect with the Other Group Members. I am using email to connect with the other group members – I ask for feedback at the end of each email. Also, I have a book for members to sign in when they attend a meeting and to post any ideas or feedback they have for the group.I found having the phone numbers of group members in my cell phone helpful as I wanted to remind members to come while I sat waiting for my daughter to finish her ballet class.
  • Show Off Your Group Online. If you already have a blog, you can post about your group. Alternatively, if members are willing, you could set up a site in WordPress specific to your group and maybe even make some money off the new site.

Mental Health Focus: Why Form a Local Group At All?

A few reasons why forming a local group could be good for your mental health:
  • If you are working in one area but find your mind often or your web browsing often wanders to another topic, maybe your body is suggesting it needs an outlet in that area.
  • If you are working alone, wouldn’t it to be nice to socialize with a few local people who share your interests?
  • Forming a group can feel empowering. After our first meeting, I expressed my joy to a friend on how successful it was. That felt good!

Take Care of Yourself: What Would You Do?

Have you ever set up or joined a local group? When I posted about my art group last week, someone commented that she was excited about a local photography group. What has been your experience with local groups? If you haven’t participated in a local group, play around with the idea of having a group connected to a favorite topic – what would the topic be? What problems might you need to overcome?

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18 thoughts on “Local Groups: Forming an Art, Writing or Tennis Group

  • Very interesting post! This year I have joined a tai chi class for beginners. I thought that learning from a book would be too hard and meeting every week is a good way of making sure I go. If I lived in an English-speaking I’d join a writing class.

    • How wonderful that you are doing tai chi – my father did a form of tai chi called moo doh for several years. He went as far as getting a black belt. I agree that is one that is easier to learn from a good teacher in real life. And it is very disciplined – good for you.

      A friend in Passaic offers writing classes. When I was younger, I really enjoyed creative writing.

  • I have been thinking I might need to start up a local writing group. At times I feel isolated and I do so much better when I am able to get out around others every now and then.

    • Jon, sounds good. For me, the impetus was finding one enthusiastic friend – that helped the whole group proceed. And she continues to be enthusiastic! Some member will be more involved than others.

  • I do love this idea In our online world we often forget about the benefits of the face to face social interaction. I would love to become a part of a local artist group or maybe star one myself. Wish me luck.

    • Catarina, and *you* like my idea as well? Too bad we don’t live near each other – such enthusiasm we could have in real life.

      What kind of group would you start, Catarina?

  • Great post with sound ideas!

    I am involved in a photography group. I have been for several years. I also am involved in a life writing group…they meet Fridays for almost three hours.

    I recommend using Meetup for finding local groups, or creating one. It is a good source, and you can narrow results according to your needs.

    • Photography and writing! Sounds great.

      I’ve used Meetup for connecting with others. But that works if you don’t need to limit numbers. If you want a group of say, five, you might want to be a little more careful about advertising methods. Word-of-mouth or low volume email lists might be a better choice for a select group.

      • I agree on the advertising methods. Caution is needed in more ways than one, even for a larger group.

        I am also involved in a poetry group. We meet at the local lake twice a month to share poetry. It is a nice setting, and a fun way to interact.

  • Very cool. This is a good idea for anyone who doesn’t have something thats just for them. I feel like a lot of times we lose touch with our passions and interests in leu of other responsibilities. Sounds like you know what you’re doing with this group!

    • Kelly, it helps that two of the members are good friends. So we can discuss how the group can be successful, since we have had so many other discussions. I’m sure we will have kinks in the road, so to speak, as we move forward.

      I did feel like I was just working and taking care of family. So I worked to make my own kind of release.

    • I posted the link in the LinkedIn group Bloggers Helping Bloggers … lots of wonderful people in that group.

      If you didn’t have so much going on with your health, Michelle, I bet a nature group for you would be quite nice.

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