Who We Are and How We Began

Active since 1971, the Tennessee Watercolor Society (TnWS) is a membership organization dedicated to elevating the stature of watercolor painting and to educating the public about the significance of the art form as an important, creative and permanent medium.

A 501(c)(3) organization, the TnWS is open to residents of Tennessee (18 years and older) and to individuals who live or work in greater metropolitan areas bordering Tennessee’s state line.

To efficiently address member needs, the TnWS has the following geographic divisions: Region I-Memphis, Region II-Nashville, Region III-Chattanooga, Region IV-Knoxville, and Region V-Tri-Cities. The president appoints a contact to represent each region who serves as that region’s liaison to the TnWS Board of Directors. Regional Contacts coordinate requests and program ideas through our vice president.

Please take time to browse our website and view the hundreds of watercolor works displayed and to learn more about the benefits of TnWS membership. We welcome new people and highly value your interest in watercolor painting.

Why Join the Tennessee Watercolor Society?

Why join the TnWS? Because your membership will connect you with like-minded individuals across the state and provide a powerful platform through which you can grow as an artist and/or simply gain a better appreciation and understanding of watermedia. The TnWS is indeed the largest and most respected organization in Tennessee dedicated to the exploration, study and advocacy of watermedia.

We are recognized for our juried Biennial Exhibition, which has been held in Tennessee since 1972. Any Tennessee resident (18 years or older) can enter this exhibition. In addition to the Biennial Exhibition (held in even-numbered years), we sponsor (in odd years) an Online Exhibition just for TnWS members.

In addition, we conduct a workshop during each Biennial Exhibition opening, taught by that year’s exhibition juror. In years when Biennial Exhibitions aren’t held, we sponsor an additional workshop conducted by a noted regional watermedia artist. TnWS-sponsored workshops are open to anyone; however, TnWS members receive first placement in classes.

Additional Benefits

In addition to exhibitions and workshops, we hold meetings, hold non-juried shows in the regional divisions, and organize a range of other activities for the membership – including social gatherings, field trips, demonstrations and lectures/presentations.

Members have online access to the newsletter ArtBeat, which is published twice a year, and also receive mailed copies of the Biennial Exhibition catalog. A Members Gallery on our website offers a list of members who have chosen to allow the TnWS to post links that lead viewers to a member’s contact information plus a website, Instagram page, or Facebook page.

Our History

The Tennessee Watercolor Society (TnWS) became an official organization in 1971, after two years of meetings and exploratory letters. Originally called Tennessee Watercolorists, the organization acquired its current name based on the national trend at that time of designating such groups as societies.

When planning began initially, Mary Britten Lynch, a Chattanooga artist, contacted the following individuals: Budd Bishop, director of the Hunter Museum in Chattanooga; George Cress, chairman of the University of Chattanooga (now the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga) art department; and Kermit “Buck” Ewing, art department head at University of Tennessee, Knoxville. All were supportive of starting a statewide organization and provided lists of potential members. The group’s first meeting, conducted in Nashville at the University Club, was attended by Mary Britten Lynch (as chairman), Anton Weiss, Don Cannichael, Louise LeQuire, Mildred Cantrell, Gordon Holl and Norman Worrell.

Charter members Holl and Worrell were from the Tennessee Arts Commission and helped the organization get off the ground. Jim Franklin, a Chattanooga architect and exhibiting artist, provided expertise in organizing and writing bylaws. Memphis artist Jason Williamson was elected the first president – with the support of 26 founding members.

The first TnWS-sponsored exhibition was held in 1972 at the Hunter Museum in Chattanooga, with Ohio artist and author Robert Laessig, AWS, as juror. The show drew artists and collectors from across the state and was a great success. For the next 26 years, the TnWS exhibition was held on an annual basis but changed to a biennial schedule in 2000. A biennial Online Exhibition, held in odd years, was added in 2013.

Today, our organization has a statewide membership of more than 250 artists and supporters.

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