New Mexico Watercolor Society

Setting standards, educating and providing exhibition opportunities since 1969

For more than 30 years, NMSW has worked to elevate the stature of watercolor as an art medium. Here's their story.

On May 2, 1969, culminating years of dreaming and planning and research, Albuquerque artist Peter Walker founded the New Mexico Watercolor Society (NMWS) as a satellite chapter of the Southwestern Watercolor Society of Dallas, Texas. The fledgling society grew so rapidly that in January 1975, by mutual agreement, the New Mexico Watercolor Society separated from the Southwestern Watercolor Society.

Peterson: Summer School

Image: © Dorothy Peterson
"Summer School"
Watercolor 20" x 26"

After more than 30 years of continuous successful operation, NMWS membership hovers around 400 each year, with approximately 25 percent of that number designated as Signature Members. Signature Membership is granted to members who have been accepted in a minimum of five juried watercolor shows sponsored by the Society. No artist, however famous, can become a Signature Member except through this process. It is an honor and well-earned privilege to be able to sign the initials NMWS after one's name.

Dedicated to enhancing public awareness of watercolor as an important permanent medium with an ancient and illustrious history, NMWS has become known for the diversity of works produced by its Members. Far from being a mutual admiration society, with a monolithic me-too body of cross-fertilized works, members create paintings that embrace the entire spectrum of contemporary water media styles. Their works bear no resemblance to persistent but erroneous public myths that painting in watercolor is a namby-pamby endeavor pursued by genteel little ladies or overly fastidious gentlemen!

Instead, NMWS exhibits reflect an exuberant panorama of exciting works executed with a sophisticated, easy grace. The watercolor painter caresses and cajoles, teases and tempts the inherently beautiful medium into new and inventive configurations.

Annual Exhibition

This attitude generates the fresh and vital annual juried shows sponsored by NMWS: the Spring Members' Show and the Autumn Open Show (open to all watercolor artists). These shows are juried and judged by nationally known nonmember watercolor artists who come to Albuquerque to conduct painting workshops under NMWS sponsorship. Artists present 35mm slides of their works to the juror(s) and pay a nonrefundable entry fee. None of this guarantees inclusion in the shows; approximately 25 to 30 percent of all entries are regularly juried out. Jury selections are typically made on the basis of quality of craftsmanship, weighted heavily toward that elusive spark of original creation that is the heart and soul of all good paintings. Each show juror speaks of the difficulty in jurying NMWS shows because of the abundance of excellent entries, many of which must be juried out only because of the physical limitations of exhibit space available in Albuquerque. In addition to the Members' Show and the Open Show, NMWS occasionally sponsors juried shows to coincide with arts-related community events. The Signature Members conduct one or more juried exhibits each year. The general membership has access to alternate exhibit opportunities on a non-juried basis at Albuquerque's Little Theater and The Learning Lab.

Members may also participate in the annual regional Western Federation of Watercolor Societies shows. The Federation, known as WFS, was founded by the late NMWS President David Gale in 1965. The Federation presents one prestigious museum-quality juried show each year on a rotating basis among the member societies. In January of 1976 the Federation of then only six southwestern affiliates participated in "Watercolor Southwest One" at the Museum of Albuquerque. In 1992, NMWS was again host with the WFS-17 exhibit at The Albuquerque Museum remote site, a show comprising works from ten member societies. Each WFS Show is planned by a committee of two artists from each member society. The host society underwrites the upfront expenses of the show and also recruits literally dozens of volunteers to stage the show and assist Museum personnel.

Wide-ranging Library

For the benefit of members, NMWS maintains a free lending library of books, slides, cassettes, videotapes and lecture printouts. Most of these are relevant to the watercolor medium, but a portion of the library covers historically important multicultural world art, as well as a few business and arts promotional books.

NMWS is governed by a 30-member Board of Directors. Elected officers are: President, Vice-president, Secretary and Treasurer, all elected for a one-year term. The Vice-president is the President-elect for the following year, ensuring continuity of the NMWS agenda. The Signature Members Group is governed by a separate elected slate of officers who report regularly to the NMWS Board of Directors.

The Permanent Collection

Since its inception, the New Mexico Watercolor Society has collected and maintained a Permanent Collection of paintings from outstanding national and local watercolor artists. This collection of 62 paintings is now on permanent display at the offices of Rogoff, Diamond and Walker, CPAs in Albuquerque at 1001 Medical Arts Drive NE. Personnel of the company are gracious to visitors who want to see the collection during business hours. The Permanent Collection is available upon request for exhibition elsewhere for a limited time each year.

You are invited . . .

The New Mexico Watercolor Society extends a standing invitation to artists and other interested persons to attend our monthly general meetings on the third Monday of each month at The Albuquerque Museum remote site at 2000 Mountain Road NW at 7 PM.

New Mexico Watercolor Society remote
PO Box 26084
Albuquerque, NM 87125

By Rita Simmons, NMWS, Albuquerque watercolor artist and writer

Originally appeared in
The Collector’s Guide to Albuquerque Metro Area - Volume 9

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LAST MODIFIED September 24, 2007

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