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Officers and Committee













“Who’da thunk when I picked up a brush for the first time in 1990 that it would have (stopped here-choked up) brought me here tonight. WOW! Thank you to the Fairbanks Arts Association for making the award available and to the Board and the Mayors for choosing us. It is truly an honor. 

That little brush, I think it was a #6, led me to learning watercolor, which led me to Tom Nixon, which led me to painting better and more! and then the Watercolor Society. Everything I do for the Society, I do with a big heart. We-the group-have grown so much over the last ten years. It has just been a joy to be a part of it. We were just doing what we love to do. Painting and pushing people around in all sorts of directions! Thank you again.  

Nelda Benson-Nixon

        President’s Acceptance Speech:

        On behalf of the Fairbanks Watercolor Society, I am accepting this Award with gratitude. This is my second year as President, a job I could not do if it were not for my excellent Board, which consists of Beckalisa Anderson as Vice President, Olga Hesketh as Treasurer and Nelda Benson Nixon nominally as Secretary but much more so. She and Olga are our organizational Memory, along with Barbara O’Dell and Gael Murakami. Nelda also keeps us informed through the monthly Newsletter and frequent reminders with her First Friday and Third Friday ‘Ticklers’.  She is also, along with Cheryl Berrong, our annual Water Media Show coordinator and is on the Workshop Committee.

         The Fairbanks Watercolor Society was formed in August 1984 to provide the opportunity to learn about watercolor painting; to exhibit work; to support watercolor painters and to enhance the appreciation of the medium, which is known as being hard to control.

The formational members, who called themselves the Fairbanks Painters’ League, were Barbara O’Dell – they used to meet in her house – Gael Murakami, Marionette Stock, Janet  Ferguson and Skip Slater. Barbara, Gael and Marionette remain members. Jim Allen was also a member at that time and still is. The first President, Jack Taylor, moved Outside, but he was very encouraging to those, like myself, who joined later.

This month the Society is celebrating its 13th annual Water Media Show. Thanks to David Mollett, the show may still be seen at Well Street Gallery until the 31st.  The Society’s earliest shows were at House of Wood, Plate & Palette, The Paint Pot, and then New Horizons. The theme of the first show there was work done at MacLaren.  The group had spent a Labor Day weekend at MacLaren Lodge.  This tradition continues. Our 2011 Labor Day Paint-out was at Manley Hot Springs, where we also set up a fairly extensive Art Show of work done by our members.

         During these 28 years,  the Society has broadened.  Artists are no longer merely painting for pleasure and the occasional local show.  In recent years, there has been a wealth of First Friday shows in places like the Woodway, the City Museum, coffee shops, businesses, and even a beauty shop. Certain members have branched out by teaching, and then by becoming fully professional.  Marionette Stock takes commissions but she  now mostly paints in acrylics.  Nikki Kinne is a recognized artist who exhibits around the State and Outside, even in Israel.  Tammy Phillips just returned from her New York  show Opening at the Agora Gallery in New York – the Agora gallery were the ones to make initial contact with her .   The Watercolor Society has benefitted immensely from internationally known watercolor artist and Olympic gold medal ice carver Vladimir Zhikhartsev,  who came to Fairbanks two decades ago from his art career in Russia because of our quality ice.  He holds weekly life drawing sessions and he teaches regular workshops in which many of our members have greatly enhanced their skills.  Tom Nixon is one of those, and he is now teaching watercolor classes as one of a ‘second generation’ of Fairbanks Artists.

         Besides these local teachers, the Fairbanks Watercolor Society has brought nationally and internationally known artists for week-long workshops. We have invited a plethora of good names in art, such as Nancy Taylor Stonington, Mel Stabin, Karlyn Holman, Ron Ranson, Jane Hofstetter, etc. and we have also benefitted from the two-week classes taught at the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival by such artists as Judi Betts.

As I mentioned earlier, Tammy Phillips was contacted by a New York gallery that requested her to show her work there.

        But individual Fairbanks artists are not the only ones who are being sought out.  It was only yesterday that we received a request for the Watercolor Society to participate in making ‘the world’s longest painting’. This from an artist whose 48 foot long 8 foot high painting is in the Guinness Book of World Records. Although this invitation did not fit our group’s purpose, it seems the Fairbanks Watercolor Society is already ‘on the map’.  And with this award from the Fairbanks Arts Association and the three Mayors we are taking another step forward into being recognized as a serious group.

Thank you.

Helen M. Howard

President FWS 2011, 2012

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