Starting Tomorrow at the Riverside Hotel


“Watercolors Breathe Life into the Gem State”: An Extraordinary Exhibition for Abnormal Times

McCale Ashenbrener

The pandemic and ensuing shelter-in-place has left many Idahoans feeling stagnated, physically and emotionally. New perspective, the play of light and color, and a breath of fresh air in the form of stunning watercolors is a timely respite. From Friday June 5th until Sunday June 7th, the 45th annual Western Federation of Watercolor Societies (WFWS) competition, “Watercolors Breathe Life into the Gem State”, will be displayed with free admission at the Riverside Hotel.

“This is not the exhibition we have been planning for three years,” explains WFWS Project Chairman, Boise watercolorist Anne Watson Sorensen. “It was to be a fabulous two-month exhibition in the newly renovated Idaho State Museum with a gala awards ceremony and fancy artists’ reception. No sooner had all the juried-in paintings arrived here, when everything changed.

That exhibition was cancelled. Still, we couldn’t bear to just pack them all up and send them back. The Riverside Hotel was exceptional, they partnered with us and we pulled the event together in just four weeks.”

World-renowned watercolorist and author Stephen Quiller selected the 100 best from over 1000 entries and has described the collection as exceptional, and worthy of a special effort to share the art wit

h the public during this pandemic. The hope is that this “extraordinary exhibition for abnormal times” can serve as a therapeutic moment. “Let the creativity of this show help guide a path to the new normal. Our world has changed, but the healing qualities of art have not,” reminds Sorensen.

WFWS is a consortium of regional watercolor societies from Oregon to Texas, with a total membership of about 5500. Being juried into this annual exhibition is a significant professional accomplishment for watermedia artists. Over $10,000 in cash and merchandise has been awarded to the top entries in the Boise show, which includes artists from all ten societies. Visitors to the exhibition will also vote for the “People’s Choice” additional cash prize.

The Riverside Hotel will host the free exhibition in their main ballroom from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, June 5-6, and 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 7.   Health precautions of masking and social distancing will be in force. The exhibition can also be viewed online beginning June 5th on the Idaho Watercolor Society YouTube channel: Idaho Watercolor Society, WFWS-45 Part 1: Gala and Awards, and Part 2: Exhibition. The comments of juror Stephen Quiller on the award-winning paintings he selected can be heard in Part 1. Find IWS at