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The Finnish Watercolour Association (FWA) saw its birth on September 21, 1998, when a group of eminent Finnish watercolor artists and enthusiasts gathered at Lallukka, an artist community in Töölö, Helsinki. Present were painter and ceramist Raili Aalto, professor and painter Lauri Ahlgren, painter Marjatta Hanhijoki, professor Olavi Hurmerinta, ambassador Antti Lassila, professor Tuomas Mäntynen, painter Osmo Nissinen, chief architect and professor Aarne Nuortila, painter Raija Pilhjerta, professor Jorma Wartiovaara, painter Senja Vellonen, painter Osmo Visuri and gallerist Pekka Wäinölä. The first chairman of the association was ambassador Antti Lassila, who’s tenure lasted whole 10 years. He was succeeded by professor Jarmo Virmawirta, painter Taina Rasi, painter Kaisa-Leena Kaarlonen, painter and MFA Satu Kiuru and most recently, painter and D.Sc. (Tech) Anja Oasmaa.

FWA is a member of Union of Finnish Art Associations (SKjL), European Confederation of Watercolour Societies (ECWS) and AKVART gallery cooperative society. FWA has national reach and is open to everybody. The current member count is approximately 700. According to the articles of the association, exhibitions form the core of the activities, with additional focus on training and publishing. FWA has published catalogues of important exhibitions, some of which can be bought at Akvart Gallery on Humalistonkatu in Helsinki.

FWA’s training activities were launched by a member of the association, painter Tello Anttila, who crafted the suite of training sessions offered at Harjavalta, in co-operation with Emil Cedercreuz Museum and the local folk high school, Sataopisto. The school offers the training facilities and the museum lets the participants exhibit their work for a whole month. FWA’s role is to select the most qualified teachers, in order to meet university level educational standards for the course.

The course runs in three separate tracks in July. The beginner track consists of tree days with one highly qualified teacher. The intermediate course lasts a whole week and has up to three teachers, all with their own individual techniques and valuable insights. The final four-day course focuses on understanding and capturing the deep essence of art with its different styles and strands. The participants are encouraged to push their own boundaries.

FWA also runs many other courses throughout the year, offering exposure to different techniques and new insights. Among the most popular ones are the course in Lapland, timed to capture the vibrant fall colours, and the mid-summer course in Hanko, an idyllic coastal town. Both one-week long courses focus on painting on location.

The high point of watercolour artists’ summer is July 7 th , which is the birthday of Helene Schjerfbeck and subsequently a self-evident date of the Great Painting Event, organized by FWA. The members of the association from all corners of the country gather to paint in groups of various sizes, mostly on location in parks, streets, beaches – wherever they find inspiration. The event is open for everybody able to hold a brush, small children included. The artistic results of the day are gathered in pop-up exhibitions.

FWA organizes at least one large juried exhibition every year, as well as some smaller exhibitions. The upcoming large exhibitions will be held in Helsinki and Pori, the latter being a joint effort with City of Pori Culture Department, Satakuntaliitto and the Art Society of Harjavalta, running under theme “My Satakunta” in September-October 2021. The exhibition is a continuum to “My Helsinki” exhibition series, incubated and organized by FWA.

During the past years FWA has been an active participant in ECWS and its many exhibitions. Great many members of the association have also participated in international events, exhibitions, workshops and courses organized by NAS and other international entities. In recent years FWA has clearly become more engaged in international activities and co-operation, a trend set to continue once the pandemic has subsided.

During these 23 years FWA has educated, inspired and offered variety of activities to ever growing group of watercolour enthusiasts.

Tuula-Palmunen Saari
Pertti Lassila