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Founding of SCVWS

Founding of the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society
Taken from pages 449 - 450 of Clyde Arbuckle’s History of San Jose
Smith McKay Printing, 1985.


During the summer of 1966, a high school art teacher named Samuel Cook taught a couple of adult classes in watercolor at The Art Gallery, an art store at 1114 Brace Avenue, San Jose. As a super-ardent watercolorist, he had no difficulty imparting enthusiasm for his favorite medium to his students-- probably to exclusion of all others. His program embraced a daytime class for women, and an evening one for men. But no hard and fast rule restricted either to one sex or the other.

Those enrolling in the first daytime class were Charlotte Britton, Ilse Gilliland, Marion Goldman, Dodo Hammett, Diane Hughes, Marie Marckel, and Elsie Nelson. Dick Angell, Jackie Cibilich, Ed Engelman, Bob Koch, and Gordon Wilson composed the first evening class.

Ar the request of several of his students, Cook added joint sessions of both classes at The Art Gallery on Saturday mornings. A similar request soon started a series of outdoor weekly painting sessions--every Thursday, weather permitting. For this, Charlotte Britton and Elsie Nelson prepared a list of painting sites that must have left outsiders wondering if Cook's students had time for anything but art. Still life studies at the Art Gallery took care of rainy days. Shortly before the end of the year, four new students came into the class--Richard E (Dick) Barrett, Marie Geiselhart, Natalie Vargo, and Lee Wiseman. Barrett, a San Jose News columnist, was a fortunate addition. Through his daily column, he frequently let the public know what was happening in San Jose art circles. And in his art studies, he displayed talent that soon identified him as a prize winner of the first rank.

A full year slipped by, it seems, before anyone thought of organizing Cook's students into a society of some kind. But in August, 1967, Charlotte Britton's list of painting sites for the coming year carried the< following question: Would you like to join the Santa Clara VaIley Watercolor Society!

The purpose of this society, she pointed out, was to pursue their "interest in watercolor painting." There would be "no dues or business meetings, and very little organization--just painting sessions, workshops and occasional social gathering." As a group with a name, they could participate in art shows and "continue the battle of watercolor vs. oil paintings" far better than they could as individuals. Accordingly,” she closed, "a group is forming to be known as the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society, with Charlotte Britton as Noble Leader." That same week, when Barrett's column announced what was taking place, the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society became a reality.

Organization of this society immediately attracted outside attention. For some time past, a San Jose Adult Center art teacher, Mrs. Barbara Cassin, had been giving side instruction to watercolor students at her home on Newhall Street. Among them were Eleanor Borgeau, Jeanne Franklin, Beryl Johns, Marion Kramer, and Vida McCracken who styled themselves "The Tuesday Group” And all of them, including Mrs. Cassin, joined the Watercolor Society

In response to Barrett's announcement and Jackie Cibilich's persuasiveness. As other members of "The Tuesday Group" did likewise, they helped to swell the Watercolor Society's membership to thirty-eight by the end of the year.