AFA publishes the Official Directory of American Illustrators and Artists Working for Advertising. The association also plays a key role in protesting the U.S. government’s decision to bring more than 200 paintings identified as prewar German acquisitions to the National Gallery for safekeeping, and helps to organize the Art Writers Committee of the Authors Guild.
AFA begins circulating its first exhibitions in addition to the publications. AFA’s exhibitions include Symbols of Power: Napoleon and the Art of Empire Style, 1800-1815; Color as Field: Vuillard Drawings, 1885-1930; Sculpture in Silver; and Four Centuries of European Drawing. AFA also organizes the first touring exhibitions to focus on contemporary artists. These include Abstract and Surrealist American Art and Seventeen American Painters, which draws reactionary criticism for including a number of abstract expressionist works.
In the 1950s, AFA organizes several international tours. 5,000 Years of Art: Selections from The Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of them, and another is an exhibition on the Mimbres painted pottery of the Southwest. AFA also presents the first travel exhibition on the carved stones of the ruins at Chichen Itza, and an exhibition of Japanese prints in cooperation with the Peabody Museum.
With a grant from the Carnegie Corporation, AFA initiates an experiment in elementary art education. The project includes providing teachers with lectures, slides, and art reproductions.
AFA establishes a program to provide traveling exhibits for museums in small and medium-sized cities and towns. The exhibitions are drawn from the AFA archives and other sources, and are offered at affordable prices, which make them accessible to smaller institutions that can’t afford the cost of permanent holdings. AFA also initiates the Rent-an-Artist program, which gives artists a month’s residency at museums to offer visitors a window into the creative process.