Watercolor exhibit at ArtCenter Manatee

Published on: January 2, 2019

ArtCenter Manatee to host prestigious

American Watercolor Society exhibition


The 81-year-old ArtCenter of Manatee moved the building at 209 Ninth Ave. W., in Bradenton, in 1955.


Living up to its reputation of being the premier center for visual arts in Manatee County, ArtCenter Manatee will host the prestigious 151st Traveling Exhibition of the American Watercolor Society.

“The American Watercolor Society show is probably the best watercolor show in America,” said ArtCenter Manatee executive board member Kathy Simon McDonald. “We’re so incredibly lucky to have it in Manatee County.”

The traveling show of 40 artists’ works will be at ArtCenter Manatee, 209 Ninth St. W., in Bradenton, from Jan. 15 through Feb. 22.

There will be a free and open to the public opening reception from 5 to 7 p.m., Jan. 17.

The ArtCenter has hosted the American Watercolor Society exhibition several times over the years, said Cathy Mijou, the ArtCenter marketing and development coordinator.

“It’s a beautiful show,” Mijou said. “(The artwork can include) all subject matters, all sizes and really all styles.

“There are landscapes, cityscapes, people and even machines,” she said.

The American Watercolor Society, or AWS, was founded in New York City in 1866.

“The purpose of the organization was singular: To promote the art of watercolor painting in America,” according to the organization’s website.

At that time many artists thought watercolor was only a sketching medium, and the society wanted to raise its standing in the art world.

Each year the society holds a juried exhibition of watercolors from artists throughout the world, and the exhibit travels to six venues in the United States.

The ArtCenter Manatee is one of those venues and the only one in Florida.

The painting, Look What’s Coming by Anne Hightower-Patterson, is one of 40 watercolors to be exhibited during the 151st Traveling Exhibition of the American Watercolor Society at the ArtCenter Manatee from Jan. 15 through Feb. 22.

“This is a˚ big deal to get (the show) in our small city,” said Judith Tilton, director of cultural affairs for the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. “The ArtCenter had to make a big commitment to bring these types of shows to a community of our size.

“They not only have to have the gallery space, but they have to show they have the technology to attract visitors to see the exhibition,” Tilton said.

The exhibition will be displayed in the Kellogg Gallery.

Being elected to membership in the American Watercolor Society is a very sought-after honor, with such prominent artists over the years as Edward Hooper, Charles Burchfield and Childe Hassam as members, according to an ArtCenter Manatee press release.

The prestige of being one of 40 artists picked from a field of more than 1,100 entries to be part of the traveling exhibition was an honor in its self, but the artists also competed for awards and medals with more than $50,000 in prizes.

“A lot of things are happening in our community,” Tilton said. “And this show will help build the momentum.

“It also shows we have great artists in our community and patrons who will support them,” she said.

There is a fee of $5 for the exhibition to help pay for the costs of bringing it to Bradenton, and docent tours of the exhibition will be available with an appointment.

“We tend to get a lot more groups with this exhibit, like from Sun City Center and other places, so they can arrange for a tour guide,” Mijou said.

During the same time as the AWS exhibition the other two galleries of the ArtCenter, the Reid Hodges and Searle, will have an aqueous watercolor exhibit of the Florida Suncoast Watercolor Society.

The 151st Traveling Exhibition of the American Watercolor Society will be held in the Kellogg Gallery of the ArtCenter Manatee from Jan. 15 through Feb. 22. The Women Contemporary Artists exhibition, pictured above, will be on display until Jan 11 in the Kellogg Gallery.

“The West Coast of Florida has often been called the Watercolor Coast because we have so many watercolor artists here,” Mijou said. “The Florida Suncoast Watercolor Society always asks to exhibit at the same time as at the American Watercolor Society show because it helps bring more people to see their exhibit.”

The Florida Suncoast Watercolor Society, or FSWS, was founded in 1983 to foster the advancement of and promote excellence in the art of watercolor painting, the organization’s website states.

“The Florida Suncoast Watercolor Society is also a wonderful organization,” said McDonald, who has been on the ArtCenter board for two years.

McDonald, who lives in Bradenton, is a watercolor artist and became involved with the ArtCenter when she moved to Manatee County after she retired.

She was a special education teacher for 35 years on Long Island.

“The ArtCenter is a fabulous place,” McDonald said. “The staff is so high energy.

“They feel the pulse of the community and bring in classes and exhibits the community wants,” she said.

McDonald got started with watercolor because her aunt was a watercolor artist and a member of the ArtCenter and the aunt bought a book for McDonald on how to do watercolor painting.

“I said I never did this before, but I’ll see what I can do,” McDonald said. “I was encouraged to enter my work into competitions and won an honorable mention and was hooked.

“Now I paint everyday,” she said. “I even was painting when the turkey was in the oven (for Christmas dinner).”

McDonald’s FSWS 2017 entry, Winter Rain in New Orleans, was the first-place winner of that exhibition.

MarieAnn Body, left, Sandra Symens, and Laura Cooper, work on their clay projects in a pottery class at the ArtCenter Manatee. Symens is an instructor at the center.

The ArtCenter Manatee was founded in 1935 and has occupied the 10,000-square-foot building on the corner of Ninth Street and Third Avenue West since 1955.

“Eighty-one years ago six people had a meeting and the outcome was the art center,” Mijou said. “They thought there were enough artists in the area to support the art center.”

There are three galleries, an Artists’ Market gift shop, classrooms and studios, and an art library with more than 3,000 books and other items on art.

Throughout the year, the ArtCenter Manatee conducts more than 350 classes in painting, drawing, pastels, pottery, jewelry design, photography, and other art-related subjects.

There are programs for young artists from 4 to 15 years old, such as the KidsArt Summer Camps and after-school programs.

The ArtCenter gives 50 grants a year for the children’s programs, Mijou said.

“Last year around 265 students from about 19 schools participated in the after-school program.

All of the work the students produce is exhibited, and some are given ribbons and awarded 16 scholarships in different age groups.

“As soon as school is out, we have have a closing party and reception to display what the students did,” Mijou said. “They bring their family and friends to see their work.”

Over the years the ArtCenter has become an important part of the Manatee County community, she said.

“We’re known for our heart, not only for our art,” Mijou said.

She highlighted one of their outreach programs, Arts and Healing for people suffering with dementia and Alzheimer’s, which was offered for free to the community.

Cathy Hawkinson, who comes to Manatee County for five months during the winter, has been throwing clay in the pottery room of the ArtCenter Manatee for 16 years. “I have a wheel and kiln at my home up North,” Hawkinson said. “When I come down, I miss it so I found the ArtCenter, and they have wonderful teachers here.”

“We care about what we do,” Mijou said. “We have warm and friendly members.”

To accomplish its mission of providing  “a welcoming, professional environment, educate novice and experienced artists of all ages, provide galleries to exhibit and market original artwork and enhance the visual arts in Manatee County through special events and outreach programs,” the members realized they needed to expand their building.

They recently entered into the quiet phase of a capital campaign to raise funds for the construction of a new building to replace the current facility.

“Our goal is to build an inclusive and welcoming community where lives are transformed and enriched through the shared experience of art,” ArtCenter of Manatee Executive Director Carla Nierman said in a press release.

The ArtCenter Manatee hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday, Friday and Saturday; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; and closed on Sunday.

For more information on ArtCenter Manatee, visit the organization’s website at www.artcentermanatee.org or call 941-746-2862.