NFWS was founded in 1980. It all began when, after a local art show in the spring of 1980, a disappointed artist went to a friend’s home to vent his frustration with the judge’s decision to group watercolors within the graphics category. The judge believed watercolor was a sketch medium, not a painting medium, and therefore should be judged along with drawings and pen and ink renderings.

As Bob Potzger and Lila Wantz continued the conversation over coffee at the large round oak table in Lila’s kitchen, Bob concluded his rhetoric by exclaiming, “What we need is a watercolor society in Western New York!” That was enough to set Lila in motion. With yellow pad in hand, the two nursed their coffee into the wee hours of the morning laying out plans for the formation of such a group.

The next meeting brought together six local artists with diversified backgrounds in education, business, management, sales and art philosophy. Bill Gates, Virginia Sentz, Joe Whalen and Norma DeSantis joined Lila and Bob, discussing different ideas that included presenting a watercolors-only show and the formation of a society. With the notes from two meetings, these six artists laid out the guidelines for the Niagara Frontier Watercolor Society (NFWS).

They thought they could get 10 to 15 fellow watercolorists to join in and have a show of “watercolor paintings.” As it turned out, 63 artists interested in transparent watercolor answered the call and became the charter members of Western New York’s only Watercolor Society.

Today, NFWS has 250 members from all over the United States and Canada. Our primary purpose continues to be the advancement of the stature of transparent watercolor as a major medium through education, and fostering the appreciation and interest of both artists and the viewing public.

To accomplish this, the activities of the Society include:

  • Monthly meetings presenting demonstrations by nationally and regionally known artists
  • Semi-annual workshops in May and October featuring nationally and internationally known master watermedia artist/teachers
  • The Waterbucket, a monthly newsletter to publicize activities, classes and accomplishments of members
  • Two juried exhibitions annually at prominent Western New York Galleries

Niagara Frontier Watercolor Society continues to evolve. In May 2007 we became a certified Exempt Organization, a “not-for-profit.” In the Fall of 2013 we added  a biennial juried exhibition of Water Media, and in the Spring of 2014 we added the first of our triennial Non-juried Members Transparent Watercolor Shows. We continue to sponsor a biennial  juried National Transparent Watercolor Show, the next one scheduled for Fall of 2016. Our demonstrations and workshops include artists experimenting with water media as well as transparent watercolor. We will always maintain our mission’s interest in and education about transparent watercolor, but we will not be left behind as the world of and excitement about water media expands around us.