Congrats to Leslie Hamrick, Rhian Swain and Lillie Morris on their acceptance into the National Association of Women Artists!

Written by: Heather Dunaway, Leslie Hamrick and Rhian Swain
November 2023

The National Association of Women Artists (NAWA) holds the distinction of being the first women’s fine art organization in the United States, making it a pioneering force in the world of art. NAWA serves as a vibrant community of professional women artists, passionately dedicated to supporting its members and women artists at large through a range of exhibitions, educational programs, and advocacy. The organization’s open

membership policy welcomes women artists who are 18 years of age and older, along with U.S. citizens or permanent residents. NAWA offers three primary membership categories, including juried Signature Members, Associate Members, and Graduating Student Members, accommodating artists at various stages of their careers.


Organizations such as these are incredibly important for the arts community. The historical roots of NAWA are deeply significant, tracing back to a time when a group of determined women, who were often excluded from the art world dominated by men during the 19th century, founded the organization in 1889. Their resilience and vision paved the way for women to assert their rightful place in the arts community. NAWA’s diverse membership represents various realms of the visual arts, spanning from painting and sculpture to photography, print-making, encaustic, video art, installations, and mixed media. Membership offers a plethora of benefits, including participation in a substantial Awards program, the opportunity to showcase artwork across the United States through the Exhibitions program, and inclusion in NAWA’s Annual Catalog. Furthermore, the organization’s esteemed NAWA Permanent Collection, established in 1991, celebrates the rich artistic legacy of NAWA artists and is displayed at the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University. NAWA stands as a testament to the enduring importance of women in the arts, empowering them to shape and inspire the art world.

Leslie Hamrick

photo of Leslie Hamrick. She has dark hair and brown eyes. She is wearing a beige, short sleved blouse.
Photo of Leslie Hamrick by Drake White

Being able to identify myself as a “Signature Member” of the National Association of Women Artists is a dream I didn’t know I had. Coming back to my own art after a career in art therapy and raising a family, I have been surprised at how quickly I fell into my creative rhythm.


Joining fellow artists to form a group we call “The Well” has been one of the best decisions I’ve made. My Well is full of women I admire who push me to be my best self. Through these women, I learned of an artist residency in Ireland and of NAWA. Taking part in the residency allowed me to expand my narrative focused on female evolution. The work that emerged explores personal evolution and esteem for the strong females in my life. In turn, this work helped build my NAWA portfolio and acceptance.


Being recognized in this way, standing with artists past and present whom I revere, is truly a dream come true. I would be remiss not to thank my Well Women and fellow NAWA sisters: Staci Swider, Laura McRae-Hitchcock, and Susan Irish for their unending support. In addition, joining Rhian Swain in this membership class is both an honor and another validation of the strong arts community in the CSRA!

I have always been partial to lines, but I enjoy mixing  elements to obtain richly layered pieces. Charcoal, graphite, ink, and monoprints figure prominently in my work.

Unexpected materials such as tissue and other textured papers, as well as old artwork, make surprising appearances and add to the eclectic feel of my collages.


The constant throughout is strong line work- from delicate wisps to bold contours that define the spaces I am in. Particularly drawn to the stacked stone walls around holy wells and friaries in Ireland, I am using textured layers and bold marks to convey the strong reverence I have for this place, these people, and now, myself.

“Of An Evolution”, 2023, mixed media collage by Leslie Hamrick

Rhian Swain

It’s exciting when you take a running jump at believing in yourself, and it earns huge rewards. Thanks to the encouragement of local artists Lillie Morris, Staci Swider and Leslie Hamrick, I submitted my art to be juried and hopefully to be selected as a member of the prestigious National Association of Women Artists (NAWA). Based out of New York City, the organization  provides National exhibiting and grant opportunities to its members. Founded in 1889, it was the first women’s fine art organization in the country.


I’m still over the moon that I was selected and will exhibiting in my first New York Gallery exhibition. Leslie Hamrick, who was also juried in as a new member will be representing both of us at the Induction Ceremony in Greenwich Village, since I’ll be tied up with the Annual Arts Day Luncheon. (Get your ticket for it today! We have a speaker coming in from DC!)

The past year I’ve been focused on taking my art more seriously and believing in myself more – which mean taking chances, like applying for grants, joining important organization that offer new opportunities, and submitting work to juried competitions. For

every “no”, there’s been an extraordinary “yes” to keep me lifted up and moving forward. Those “yeses” are everything. The motto truly is just try, and then try again.

Portrait of Juane Quick-To-See Smith, Acrylic on Canvas 16x20 by Rhain Swain to be featured in the NAWA exhibition in NYC

Lillie Morris

Black and White photo of a woman wearing a black shirt, necklace and glasses. She has short hair and is smiling with her hands on her hips.
Photo of Lillie Morris by Drake White

I applied for membership to NAWA in early 2023 and was notified of my accepted in April of this year.


I first learned about NAWA from several other women artists, here in the southeast, who had recently become members. As I looked into the organization and its rich history I felt it was a something I would love to be a part of.


Applying to NAWA was motivated by a desire to enhance my artistic practice, and further my professional development.


NAWA is a prestigious organization with a longstanding history. Its primary mission is to promote and support women artists in the US and their work…something every female artist should feel strongly about!

The organization provides opportunities for artists to connect with other like-minded individuals within the art world and offers exhibition opportunities for its members, providing a platform for women artists to showcase their artwork to a wider audience.

NAWA also provides educational resources, workshops, and mentorship opportunities to help artists develop their skills and navigate the art world…something I can definitely benefit from.

In the short time I’ve been affiliated with NAWA I’ve already seen distinct benefits and I look forward to being involved with this wonderful organization and its diverse community of women artists.

colorful abstract painting by lillie morris