National Watercolor Society exhibition makes only stop in South - in Mooresville

Art lovers can view some of the world's finest contemporary watercolor paintings in downtown Mooresville through June 27, thanks to Ellen Patterson and other members of the Mooresville Artist Guild.

The American Watercolor Society's 143rd Annual International Exhibition Travel Show opened May 23 at the Depot Visual Arts Center at Main Street and West Center Avenue, featuring 40 juried works.

Mooresville is the show's only stop in the South this year.

"It's the 'Who's Who' of Watercolor,'" Patterson said at the Depot last week.

Patterson wrote to the New York-based society more than two years ago to ask that it consider Mooresville for the show.

The letter cited the nonprofit Mooresville Artist Guild's longtime standing in the community - it started in 1955 with six artists and now has about 200 members - and its location in a historic train depot.

The next thing she and other members knew, Mooresville had been selected for the show.

Mooresville is the show's second 2010 stop, after New York City, where the society is based. The show's other stops this year will be in Middletown, Ohio, Grants Pass, Ore., and Richland, Wash.

Mooresville was selected in part because it was a new stop for the exhibition, and also because Patterson wrote the society asking for consideration, said Helen Napoli, chairman of the traveling exhibition. The Depot also could accommodate the 40 works, she said.

The guild has seen strong turnout for the show, including 56 people May 25, the night renowned watercolor artist Frank Webb lectured at the Depot. Webb also conducted a five-day workshop attended by 21 artists from as far away as Raleigh, West Virginia and South Carolina.

Another 65 people visited the exhibition May 31. Visitors have come from across North Carolina as well as Florida, other states, England and Belgium.

Guild members started preparing for the exhibition a year ago. Volunteers distributed exhibition brochures at N.C. welcome centers and in Seagrove, the famed pottery town about 60 miles northeast of Charlotte.

The art supply company Cheap Joe's, of Boone, distributed 10,000 postcards promoting the show.

"We've had a lot of volunteer responses in a lot of areas," Patterson said.

The show cost $7,000 to arrange and received support from the local MI-Connection cable TV company, Cheap Joe's, the Iredell Arts Council, Wal-Mart, Allen Tate Realtors and the Mooresville Convention & Visitor's Bureau.

Guild members Mary Luke and Barbara Earnshaw helped Patterson hang the exhibition after several men carried and unpacked the paintings from their crates. The display fills the Depot's three exhibition rooms.

All of the works are for sale, ranging from $900 to $6,000.

Guild members were pleasantly surprised to learn that one of the 40 works, "Soho Shadows," is by Linda Baker of Mooresville.