As the nation’s oldest institution for the promotion of the arts and crafts, the Malta Society of Arts (MSA) is considered by many to be an educational and cultural catalyst on the Island. Its 170-year history, in fact, is intertwined with that of many great Maltese and Gozitan artists who were sponsored through exhibitions or grants to further their artistic studies both locally and abroad. Throughout the years, its work has been given the official recognition and patronage of governors, presidents and archbishops of Malta.
Originally known as the Malta Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, the MSA’s founding in 1852 was the direct result of a letter sent out by the British Secretary of State to the respective administrations in the Imperial Colonies to solicit the founding of an association similar to the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, which was based in London.
Throughout the following 170 years, the MSA held various competitions and exhibitions, participated in overseas expositions, and awarded medals to many local and foreign artists. The MSA was also the first institution in Malta to set up a School of Lace; while it pioneered apprenticeship schemes. Meanwhile, in 1933, the Society became the official representative in Malta of the London College of Music, a status which it still holds as its premises are the Malta Centre for the College’s examinations.
Through the help of the Maltese Government, contributions, patrons and various other financial sources, the MSA is one of the Island’s leading educational and cultural centres. Within the historic Palazzo de La Salle in Valletta, which has been the official seat of the Society since 1923, the MSA holds various exhibitions by up-and-coming, as well as renowned, artists; stages various cultural events (including concertos and recitals); and offers classes in a large number of visual, applied and performing arts, from lace-making to Spanish guitar, and from crib-building to wood sculpture.