Our mission is to encourage, promote, and enhance water media painting on paper through the education of the artist and the public.
Who We Are
Membership in the Pennsylvania Watercolor Society is open to all water media painters upon payment of the annual dues, with a term from January 1st to the last day of December each year. Although currently over half of our members come from Pennsylvania, membership is offered nationwide and internationally. The day to day affairs of the Society are handled by an elected board of directors located in central Pennsylvania. This board arranges the details for the workshops, the juried show, and the members show as well as publishes a quarterly newsletter and maintains a lending library. Regular board meetings are held at least six times a year. All the meetings are open to all members.
Signature membership is offered to those regular members in good standing who have been accepted into two of the Pennsylvania Watercolor Society's Juried Exhibitions within an eight year period. Upon acceptance, the member receives a special PWS pin and a certificate and is entitled to use the signature initials PWS after their name.
The Keystone Medallion and $500 award is available to Pennsylvania artists as one of the many awards given at the annual Juried Exhibition.
The Sylvan Grouse Guild Award, available to signature members, is earned by attaining a total of six points. Points are earned by winning awards at the annual juried exhibition, the amount of points dependent upon what award is earned. The medal is quite impressive. The image on the bronze face depicts the hemlock, (our state tree) the mountain laurel, (the state flower) and the ruffed grouse, (the state bird) which sits on a log in the sylvan Penn’s Woods. When inducted into the Sylvan Grouse Guild, the artist may add “sgg” after their name (PWS sgg).
In March of 1979 twelve watercolor artists, led by Nick Ruggieri, met in a back room of the state Museum in Harrisburg and founded the association we know today as the Pennsylvania Watercolor Society. Initially named the Pennsylvania Society of Watercolor Painters, the name was changed to our present title in 1987.
A second meeting, with more artists in attendance, was held later in the month to plan for the first juried show to be held in Strawberry Square, Harrisburg. The area news was abuzz with something taking place a few miles down the river at a place called Three Mile Island. By fall the crisis was over and the new group held their first juried show in Harrisburg. Of the 311 entries, 132 were hung in the show. Gold, silver, and bronze medals, cash, and prizes were awarded.
The founding artists sought to create an association that would support and advance the watercolor medium for artists while promoting the beauty and appeal of watercolor to the public. One of the initial strategies developed in those early years and still followed today was to always hold the PWS juried show within the state’s boundaries, but to open it to entries from across the United States and indeed from around the world.
For several years the juried show was held near the mid-state area, but in the mid 1980s PWS began to move out to other areas of the state. In 1984 Shippensburg University hosted the show and a year later Kutztown University had the honors. Over the following years many of the more remote areas of the state have played host to the PWS juried show, such as Erie, Scranton, Warren, Ligonier, Philadelphia, and Selinsgrove, Lancaster, Carlisle, Millersburg, and Gettysburg.
Over the years a member’s only, non-juried show was successfully initiated and continues to this day. A small entry fee is charged to help cover some of the cost of awards given. This show allows each member to enter their artwork into an impressive exhibition without the rigorous competition of the juried show. Like the juried show, the member’s only show has been hosted throughout the state and has most recently been online to save members the shipping cost involved with physical shows.
PWS is a non-profit organization and has always been self-sustaining via yearly membership dues, the amount which is determined by a vote at the first board meeting after the annual election. These collected dues allow the society to sponsor the nationally acclaimed Juried Exhibition and the member’s only show, produce a newsletter for the members at least four times a year, host a yearly workshop that many times features a nationally known instructor, and provide additional award pins and medals for our members.