free spirit

Watermedia in the Red River

free spirit
Karen Bakke’s “Free Spirit,” recipient of the Red River Regional Award at the 2015 Juried National Watermedia Exhibition Awards.

At the mention of a vibrant art scene, one may first think of idealized, urban sprawls and may risk overlooking the artistic outlets in his or her own stomping ground.

The Fargo-Moorhead area has been the home of a lively, flourishing art scene that is only continuing to grow.

One group that is contributing to this local artistic outpouring is the Red River Watercolor Society, a nonprofit volunteer partnership of artists based in the Red River Valley who implement watercolor and acrylic media.

In addition to North Dakota and Minnesota, RRWS is prevalent in nearly twenty other cities along the Red River, as well as Canada.

“Our 180 over members are from all over the country with the major concentration in the Red River Valley,” said RRWS President Dave Olson.

Founded in 1989, RRWS was created to further the education in and exhibition of water-based artwork at both the regional and national level. The society aims to promote artistic creation at the personal degree to inspire the creation additional creative communities.

There are a handful of local artists involved in RRWS who have found success in their selected medium. These include Fargo artists Elizabeth Schwankl, Karen Bakke and Michael Dunn who have received awards at the Red River Watercolor Society 2015 Juried National Watermedia Exhibition Awards.

“The history of each artist that has worked with RRWS is impressive. Several conduct workshops in Europe. A past artist and our 2017 artist are just back from China,” Olson said.

The RRWS is now preparing for their 2016 National Watermedia Exhibition.

“Each year RRWS conducts a National Show and workshop. Paintings for the National Show are submitted for entry and blind juried for the show by a nationally recognized watercolor artist,” Olson said. “The National Show is RRWS’s gift to the community to view current quality water media artwork from around the country in the Red River Valley for one month.”

The exhibition is juried by Tom Francesconi and opens May 17 at the Plains Art Museum.

“The artist (Francesconi) we select to jury the show also conducts a five day workshop limited to only 20 members at a rate that is considerably lower than if one traveled to their location for a five day workshop,” Olson added.

RRWS offers many events and programs for artists of any ability and people looking to get in on the business side of the art industry. With guest speakers, workshops and demonstrations, RRWS assists artists who seek to further their artistic skill and expand their knowledge of water media.

Ultimately, the Red River Watercolor Society aims to make an accommodating home for emerging water media artists to provide the needed education to inspire artists to flourish.

The society holds monthly meetings on the second Tuesday of every month at 7-9:30 p.m. if one is interested in enriching themselves with water based painting.

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