The story of The Arts Society Oxford

The Society began life as Oxford Decorative and Fine Arts Society (Oxford DFAS).  The idea of starting the Society was first discussed in September 2008 by two people, Patricia Dugdale and Judith Brown, who became the first Chairman, and Vice-Chairman and Treasurer of Oxford DFAS. Both had at different times enjoyed studying the history of art at the Department of Continuing Education in Oxford and with a small group of interested people they formed the Steering Group that planned and set up Oxford DFAS, helped and encouraged by the national New Societies Adviser, Wendy Price.

Oxford already offered an amazing array of opportunities to attend lectures, join societies and study a range of subjects associated with the arts, but we believed that our society could offer something different – a series of lectures, study days and visits associated with the fine and decorative arts aimed at a non-specialist audience – and that there was a potential audience in Oxford for this kind of society. So it has proved. Since we started formally in 2009 we have grown to 500 members. While about half our members are drawn from within the city itself, the rest live outside the city in the many villages and small towns in the surrounding area.

The Society was  affiliated to NADFAS (the National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies).  When NADFAS rebranded in 2017 and became The Arts Society, Oxford DFAS changed its name and became The Arts Society Oxford (“TASO”). Although we still concentrate on the fine and decorative arts we have broadened our interests to include other arts such as music, theatre and dance.


Volunteering forms an essential part of the activities of our Society.
Please see the relevant sections on helping to organise Visits and taking part in Heritage Volunteering and Church Recording. We also rely on members at Magdalen College before each of the lectures, on the reception desk and in providing refreshments.

Social events

Informal local visits within Oxford have been a very popular development within the Society’s activities. The “Get to Know….” sessions are built on the interest of individual members who do not pretend to be experts, but have researched the subject and are willing to share this knowledge. See more under the relevant heading.

Coffee mornings are arranged during the year, for new members at the start of the programme year and to thank our volunteers at the end of the year.

Annual General Meeting

We welcome all our members to our Annual General Meeting.  The AGM is usually followed by a guest lecture.

Funding for Community Arts Projects

TASO is a registered charity and this enables us to play an increasing role in supporting art education and heritage conservation in Oxford. Through our Community Arts Project we aim to support those who will benefit from an increased understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of the arts through community and educational art activities. We can give financial support to projects where the participants face special challenges in accessing the arts, and we give priority to those who would gain most from financial support. Further details of how to apply for funding can be found here.

Policy Documents

For details of our constitution, charitable giving policy, guidance on funding applications and other core documents, please click here.