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.

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.

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.

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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