The Florida Watercolor Society held a first, second, and third annual exhibition from 1938 to 1941 under the presidency of Harold Hilton. It is thought that the current Florida Watercolor Society evolved from this early beginning. There was no further activity until 1972 when Guy Beattie, Director of the Maitland Art Center, invited Florida watercolorists to contribute their work to an exhibition. Miles Batt, AWS, juried and judged the show selecting eighty-four paintings from those submitted. Because of interest in the show, the Florida Watercolor Society was founded with twenty-six artists becoming charter members. Membership has now grown to over 1,150. Members who have had work accepted and hung at one annual juried exhibition are eligible for full participating membership with voting privileges and will have the right to hold office. Members whose work has been exhibited at three annual juried exhibitions are classified as Signature Members and may include “FWS” in their signature.
Members volunteer their services in many areas–visiting school systems and teaching special techniques, acting as docents in museums, giving “art talks” to organizations, presenting slide shows and demonstrations to groups wanting to bring art to their members, and teaching watermedia classes. On occasion, art supplies are donated by FWS to schools and/or needy students. In addition, the Society presents a scholarship of $2,500 or more to a college or university located near the site of the annual convention to present to a deserving student of watermedia.
A Florida Watercolor Society exhibition is held in one of the state’s most prestigious galleries or museums annually. Florida artists have an opportunity at this time to exhibit with their fellow watercolorists from around the state. A nationally known watermedia expert is asked to jury and judge the show and conduct an educational workshop. The exhibition is recognized as one of the top watermedia exhibits in the country.
The annual exhibition has been held at the following sites: Maitland Art Center, Florida Tech Gallery, Capitol Gallery in Tallahassee, Longboat Key Art Center, Boca Raton Museum and Art Center, Center for the Arts in Vero Beach, Stetson University, Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College, The USF/Edison Community College Gallery of Fine Arts in Ft. Myers, The Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, The Pensacola Museum of Art, Old School Square Cultural Center in Delray Beach, The Deland Museum of Art in Deland, The Sarasota Visual Arts Center, The Melvin Gallery at Florida Southern College, Museum of Arts & Sciences in Daytona Beach, The Dunedin Fine Art Center, The Appleton Museum of Art in Ocala, The von Liebig Art Center in Naples, the Orlando City Hall-Terrace Gallery, the Gadsden Art Center in Quincy, Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art in Tarpon Springs, the Art Center Sarasota and the Charlotte County Art Guild VAC, Punta Gorda.
Jurors for the exhibitions have been Miles Batt, Mario Cooper, Milford Zornes, Charles Kinghan, Edmond Fitzgerald, Tom Hill, Fred Messersmith, Millard Wells, Valfred Thelin, Virginia Cobb, Al Brouilette, Gerald Brommer, Frank Webb, Carole Barnes, Don Andrews, Judi Betts, Christopher Schink, Katherine Chang Liu, Betty Lynch, Nita Engle, Morris Shubin, Mary Todd Beam, Marilyn Hughey Phillis, Robert A. Wade, Glenn Bradshaw, Louise Cadillac, Don Getz, Edward Minchin, Martha Mans, Carla O’Connor, Cheng Khee Chee, Mark Mahaffey, Dean Mitchell, George James, Betsy Dillard Stroud, Donna Watson, Mary Ann Beckwith, Judy Morris, Carrie Burns Brown and John Salminen.
The trade show has grown into a two-day public event with exhibitors coming from all over the United States as well as Europe. It is held each year on a weekend during the exhibition and is an opportunity for teachers, students and anyone else interested in art to be introduced directly to the suppliers of art materials, to try and purchase their products, and to participate in seminars, observe demonstrations and meet artists of international acclaim.