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WASH Celebrates 40 Years
of Watercolor Art


“Dawn at the Docks” by Keiko Yasuoka, WASH Signature Member.

“Dawn at the Docks” by Keiko Yasuoka, WASH Signature Member.

Exhibition In Nov.-Dec. Showcases “Best Of The Best”

Almost all of us remember the flat tin box containing little squares of watercolor paint that was part of our standard school supplies. Perhaps because of this, many think watercolor painting is mostly a pastime for children. But painters like Edward Hopper, Winslow Homer, Andrew Wyeth, Charles Burchfield, John Marin, Paul Cezanne and Vincent Van Gogh didn’t think so. For hundreds of years, some of the greatest names in painting employed watercolor as a serious medium for artistic expression.

More than 50 years ago, a small but dedicated group of watercolor enthusiasts started the Watercolor Art Society-Houston (WASH). They met regularly to share ideas, support each other and, most of all, to encourage one another to make art. A few years later, WASH became a nonprofit organization, rapidly gained membership and began regularly exhibiting watercolor paintings to the Houston community.

This year WASH officially turns 40 years old. To celebrate the milestone, WASH will open an exhibition of “Signature” and “Elite Signature” members’ paintings on Nov. 13, with an opening reception/birthday party from 6-8 p.m. in the WASH Gallery at 1601 West Alabama. The public is invited.

The largest and most important annual exhibition that WASH sponsors is the International Exhibition, which is competitive because the art is juried and the comes from around the U.S. and the world. If a WASH member acquires entrance and exhibition into three International Exhibitions, the member is given the title of “Signature Member.” Sometimes it takes years to acquire that title. Gaining entry into one International Exhibit is a real honor, getting in three times is very difficult, which is why those with “Signature Member” status are usually the best of the best.

To take this enterprise beyond its enthusiasts and present it to the public, WASH created the Annual Members Exhibit, which showcases the work of members selected by juries of some of the most respected painters in the country. Every October since 1970 WASH has assembled this juried Members Exhibit and made it available free to the public. While presenting an exceptional collection of watercolor paintings for the Houston community to enjoy, it also has given local talent a forum to learn from other artists. They could enhance their skills and be encouraged to take their work to regional and national competitions, and occasionally into commercial galleries.

Along with the Annual Members Exhibit, WASH has smaller thematic monthly exhibits and offers a yearly schedule of classes and workshops for people at all ages and stages. WASH outreach programs take the activity and enjoyment of watercolor painting into local schools and medical centers. The annual Members Exhibits have served to expand WASH membership, which now includes artists from other cities around the state and the nation, and has grown WASH to be one to the most thriving watercolor art organizations in the U.S.

For many years, WASH met in borrowed or rented space, always searching for large public venues to present exhibitions. But seven years ago with the help of many individuals and business leaders, WASH constructed its own building, and today it can boast of being one of only three such organizations in the country to possess its own home. Located in Houston’s museum district, the facility is complete with galleries, classrooms, a small library and administrative office space. While WASH is a nonprofit organization, the art made by its members and exhibited in the gallery is for sale, and a portion of each sale benefits WASH.

The gallery is open from Tuesday through Saturday and free to anyone. Membership is available to anyone interested in the art of watercolor painting, whether a watercolorist or simply a devotee to the enjoyment of watercolor painting.

The exhibition will continue through Dec. 3. The public is invited to visit the gallery, see the regular exhibits and find out more about the history of WASH and its vital role in Houston’s arts community. For more information visit watercolorhouston.org or call 713-942-4433.

“Richland County” by Wilmer Anderson, WASH Signature Member.

“Richland County” by Wilmer Anderson, WASH Signature Member.

“Siblings” by Gerry Finch, WASH Signature Member.

“Siblings” by Gerry Finch, WASH Signature Member.


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