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This year, Coventry and WarwickshireSociety of Artists (CWSA) will be celebrating the organisations one-hundredth anniversary.
Founded in February 1912, by the Mayor of Coventry, Colonel William Wyley, CWSA’s history has been studded with many successes, as well as many frustrating trials and tribulations. Disheartened by the fact that so little was being done for the visual arts in Coventry and the surrounding area, Wyley proposed to expose the wealth of talent in the region by founding a society and an art gallery and museum for Coventry and North Warwickshire.
The beginning of this initiative was marked by CWSA’s debut exhibition at the Corn Exchange (no longer in existence), where a good 354 works were displayed. The then President Solomon J. Solomon RA, sent a large painting entitled ‘Eve’ which had to be delivered by carriage as he was unable to attend.
The society worked hard to secure an art gallery in Coventry and was eventually rewarded when Sir Alfred Herbert, a philanthropist and local manufacturer, offered to fund the project. However, despite enormous efforts, together with the advent of World War II, this dream was not fulfilled until 1960, sadly after the death of Sir Herbert. But, this fortune was to be relatively short lived, and, despite a lengthy campaign to save their hard-earned exhibition space, the society were forced to seek alternative exhibition spaces.
Today, the Herbert Art Gallery’s permanent collection still contains a significant number of works donated by members, patrons and other people who were involved with the CWSA, and the actual existence of the gallery is certainly thanks to the early endeavours of the society’s members.
A number of highly distinguished artists have supported CWSA over the years, including the first woman President Dame Laura Knight, David Shepherd, Sir William Orpen, William Roseblade, and the watercolourist Herbert Edward Cox, whose paintings of old Coventry (1930s) can be seen in the Herbert Art Gallery.
In more recent times, a number of CWSA members have received awards, including Sheila Fitzgerald who received The Chancellors Medal for her outstanding service to Warwick University and Vivienne Robinson, who won the Warwick Business School Logo Competition in 2011.
Initially, CWSA was an extremely selective organisation, open only to artists, but over the years the organisation has adapted to the ever-changing times, collaborating with a variety of arts organisations, museums and galleries on a national and European scale, opening its doors to artists and art lovers alike. Today, the original spirit and objectives of the organisation continue to live on, and, to mark their centenary, CWSA will be holding a variety of exhibitions and events in the local area.
The celebrations will commence this summer, when the society will be exhibiting in the MOSAIC Art Trail, in May, Art on the Edge2 in June, and “The Tiltyard” in August, under the umbrella of BRINK, where the society will be presenting a special anniversary showcase. But, the most exciting event will occur in October, when the CWSA will hold their centenary exhibition at the Herbert Art Gallery.
“This is a very important and exceptional year for us. We are absolutely delighted that we will be able to hold our Centenary Exhibition at the Herbert Art Gallery in October and it will be an incredible opportunity to showcase the wealth of local talent that exists in Coventry and Warwickshire today. To date the CWSA has 93 members, many of whom will be exhibiting at the Herbert in October. The artists and our committee are working very hard in preparation for this event, which will be feature painting and sculpture by both past and current members” states CWSA President Jane Powell.
You can find out more about the events that will be happening this year at www.covwarsocart.co.uk
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Area – West Midlands