The Northern Plains Watercolor Society in Rapid City, South Dakota inspired Sharon Grey and Betty Smith to create the Missouri River Watercolor Society (MRWS) in Vermillion.
In November 2019 the MRWS was formed. The First Dakota Coyote Gallery in the Coyote Twin Theatre building on 12 East Main Street sponsors the MRWS by offering people of all ages and skill levels a place to create art every Monday from 2-4 p.m.
Organizer and coordinator for the MRWS, Michelle Mechling, said participants typically pitch in $10-$15 per class to give back to the First Dakota Coyote Gallery, where they space out safely while painting due to the pandemic.
“It’s not our only space but it’s our home base,” Mechling said. “On a nice day we’ll go to Clay County Park, or Janet has us over to her home with her beautiful gardens.”
Former Vermillion schools art teacher and current painter Janet Beeman partakes in the MRWS and offers guidance to participants.
“A lot of people are craving art classes,” Beeman said. “I think a lot of these ladies just want a consistent place to keep developing and painting. Instead of just a couple of classes, they want a constant learning experience and relaxation that you get from it.”
Mechling emphasizes that the MRWS is always looking to expand and create art in different locations.
“It’s mostly for friendship and sharing the craft of watercolor,” Mechling said. “We are excited to maybe branch out and show our work in alternative spaces to bring more art to places in public areas where you wouldn’t usually see an art exhibit.”
The MRWS had the opportunity to donate their paintings to the Theta Omega Chapter of Epsilon Sigma Alpha—a local service organization—for their fundraising auction this past summer. The proceeds were given to the St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital Foundation.
“We were really thrilled to be a part of that,” Mechling said.
The MRWS had their first exhibit in March 2021 at the First Dakota Coyote Gallery where eight of the participants displayed their paintings to the public.
Mechling said the MRWS plans to host demonstrations for participants to learn different techniques from experienced artists. The MRWS also hopes to partake in collaborations and workshops with the USD Student Art Alliance in the future.
The MRWS is open to anyone who wants to join and is free of charge.
“If you have an inkling to learn how to create a hobby for yourself or just to start painting, come and bring a set of watercolors and some paper,” Mechling said. “There’s no commitments, it’s just a fun free-for-all thing, it’s a great outlet and it’s very relaxing.”