John Salminen, Kathy Salminen, Yi-Hung, Cheng-Khee Chee, Mel Kumsha

The Beginning of the Lake Superior Watercolor Society 1981-
By Cheng-Khee Chee AWS DF
, August 25, 2015  

The University of Minnesota Duluth has a long tradition for the water-media painting. Dr. Arthur E. Smith, who was an accomplished watercolorist, served as head of the art department (1949-1970), director of the Tweed Museum of Art (1949-1975), chairman of the division of humanities (1970-1975), and acting dean of the school of fine arts (1975-1976).

One of the most noteworthy programs which Dr. Smith initiated during his tenure at UMD, was the one- month long “Summer Master Watercolor Class”. He invited nationally and internationally well-known artists to conduct the class and hold a solo exhibition at the Tweed Museum. The first artist in the series was renowned American watercolorist Charles Burchfield. Among other artists were Will Barnet, Millard Sheets, Don Kingman,

In the meantime, each year the American Watercolor society held a very competitive juried international watercolor exhibition in New York City, and selected 50 paintings from the original show to travel around the country for one year. Starting 1960 the Tweed Museum exhibited this American Watercolor Society Annual Travel Show many times, giving me the golden opportunity to study 50 outstanding watercolors each year.

The Tweed Museum was the host of the Midwest Watercolor Society (now the Transparent Watercolor Society of America) Inaugural Exhibition in 1977 and continued to exhibit a few more times later years.

Over the years, the Tweed Museum has accumulated a good collection of watercolor paintings, which is an excellent resource for supporting the watercolor courses of the Art Department.

In 1979, I started teaching a watercolor course, “Art 3727 Watercolor Painting”, through the Continuing Education and Extension Program at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Mr. Bill Boyce, Director of the Tweed Museum of Art, was also a big lover and supporter of the watercolor medium. He enthusiastically offered to exhibit my students’ paintings at the Tweed Museum in 1979 and 1980. The exhibitions were very well received by the UMD staff, students, as well as the Duluth community at large.

The success of these two exhibitions at the Tweed Museum, resulted in the formal establishment of the Lake Superior Watercolor Society in 1981. The Organization’s Purpose Statement was: “ The Lake Superior Watercolor Society, formed in 1981, is a group of artists dedicated to the growth and appreciation of the art of watercolor in the general vicinity of Lake Superior. The Society draws its vitality from the interaction between members at its monthly study group; its outward expression is the annual show at the Tweed Museum of Art in Duluth, Minnesota. The society encourages other artists in our region to form watercolor study groups and the opportunity to display their paintings at subsequent annual shows.”

The formal membership of the Society was by election only. Any elected member could recommend a potential artist for membership to the monthly meeting, with three recant paintings. The elected members would then vote to accept or reject the application. All elected members must attend the monthly meeting, with one recent painting for critiquing. Any one who missed the meeting three times would be disqualified as an elected member.

The Tweed Museum continued to hosted the Lake Superior Watercolor Society annual exhibitions for 4 times: May 23rd through July 11, 1982; May 22 through June 26, 1983; June 17 through July 15, 1984 and June 2 through July 20, 1985. The succeeding exhibitions were held at the Duluth Art Institute and other venues.

The Charter Members included Cheng-Khee Chee, Joyce Gow, Betsy Katoski, Donna Kent, Mel Kumsha (East High School art teacher), Avis Mattson (Graphic Designer), David Morganstern (Architect), John Salminen (East High School art teacher), Rudy Schauer (UMD art professor), Subhash Vidyarthi (Physician) and Dale Wolf (Carlton County Judger and UMD Adjunct Professor).


Dorrance Kiser, Ben Cunningham, Gael Lindstrom and Birney Quick.