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.
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.
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.