Mid-Southern Watercolorists (MSW) was founded and incorporated in 1970 as a nonprofit organization by five artists: Doris Williamson Mapes, Bruce R. Anderson, Josephine Graham, Edwin C. Brewer, and Catherine Tharp Altvater. The purpose of MSW, which has its headquarters in Little Rock (Pulaski County), is to elevate the stature of watercolor and educate the public about the significance of watercolor as an important creative, permanent painting medium; to promote the highest aesthetic standards; and to further the interest of painters in watercolor by its programs and competitive exhibits.
At the group’s first organizational meeting, nearly forty people, responding to a newspaper advertisement, met in the Sears Community Room at University Mall in Little Rock. MSW’s articles of incorporation and by-laws, patterned in part on documents of the American Watercolor Society and drafted by Little Rock attorney William Terry, were approved. Doris Mapes was elected the organization’s founding president.
MSW’s first official program meeting was held at the Arkansas Arts Center (now the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts) with approximately sixty members present. Townsend Wolfe, in just his second year as director of the Arkansas Arts Center, was the inaugural address speaker. The following year, Josephine Graham was chosen as president, and Bruce Anderson served in that capacity during MSW’s third year. By 2007, MSW had grown to approximately 275 members from seventeen states.
The business of MSW is led by a board of directors made up of the officers (president, president-elect, secretary, treasurer, and corresponding secretary), the immediate past president, and the chairpersons of several standing committees, including those for membership, programs, paintings, exhibitions, public relations, and the editor of the newsletter MSW Views. Meetings are held monthly, except during the summer months.
Each year, MSW hosts the juried Mid-Southern Watercolorists Annual Exhibition in Little Rock at locations that have included the Arkansas Arts Center, the Central Arkansas Library System, Historic Arkansas Museum, and the Terry House Community Gallery. Elsie Freund won the Best of Show award at MSW’s first annual exhibition. Active members whose work has been accepted in five annual exhibitions are designated “MSW Signature Members” and are entitled to display the “MSW” signature on their work. The organization also provides scholarships for MSW memberships to deserving senior high school art students.
Each year, MSW offers multi-day workshops to improve painting skills using non-member instructors. In addition, several one-day mini-workshops are regularly available to members at minimal cost. Other educational opportunities such as group outdoor paintings are offered each year. These painting outings are free to members and are provided by MSW in cooperation with the Plein Air Painters of Arkansas and the Arkansas League of Artists.
Since 1990, MSW has sponsored its Open Membership Exhibit at Cantrell Gallery in Little Rock. The exhibit is limited to smaller works of 16 x 20 inches or less. This non-juried exhibit allows members to have their works in a professional gallery.
Periodically, MSW, in cooperation with the Arkansas Arts Center, organizes traveling exhibitions throughout Arkansas. In 2009, the traveling exhibition featured works by award-winning artists including Selma Blackburn of Little Rock; Carol Flori of Texarkana (Miller County); Gloria Garrison of Russellville (Pope County); Judi Coffey of Cypress, Texas; and Victoria Lenne of Tennessee. The 2009 Mid-Southern Watercolorists Annual Exhibition juror—John M. Salminen of Minnesota, an internationally recognized watercolorist—selected thirty-seven works for the exhibit. Eighteen of those winning works were chosen by the Arkansas Arts Center staff for the traveling exhibition.
For additional information:
Mid-Southern Watercolorists. http://midsouthernwatercolorists.com (accessed January 19, 2022).
Mid-Southern Watercolorists Collection. University of Central Arkansas Archives and Special Collections, Conway, Arkansas.
Thomas A. Teeter
Little Rock, Arkansas
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