The High Country Watermedia Society (HCWS) was founded in 1997 and held its first meeting May 10, 1997, at the Holiday Inn in Banner Elk with the goal to encourage the growth of watermedia through education and hands-on experience. Furthermore, the group strived to increase public appreciation of watermedia as an art form. Annual dues were $25. By July of that year, the organization had 35 members mainly from Boone, Blowing Rock and Banner Elk. They quickly made plans for their first workshop, which was held at Chetola Resort in Blowing Rock on October 13-14 with instructor Jim Koevenig. Members participated in plein air drawing and painting sessions. The first exhibition for the membership was in May 1998 at the invitation of the Watauga County Arts Council (WCAC) at the Jones House in Boone. Through the years, exhibitions have been held in a variety of venues, including Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk and the Broyhill Center in Boone. Current exhibitions are being held at the Jones House and the WCAC’s Blue Ridge ArtSpace.
The first bylaws were created in October 1999 with the following stated purpose: “Further the cause and interest in watermedia through teaching programs, demonstrations, and exhibitions.” The group was incorporated with the State of North Carolina on August 15, 2000.
Meetings were held at the Agriculture Extension conference room and then the Boone Methodist Church until 2001, when the group was invited to use the classroom at Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff. Joe Miller was active with the HCWS from its inception and eventually became an honorary member.
In June 2000, the group published its first newsletter titled High Views and News. It sold ads in the newsletter to raise funds.
The HCWS Endowment for the Arts began in 2005 when HCWS member Bettie Bond led the effort for the HCWS to become a member of the Watauga County Community Foundation, an arm of the North Carolina Community Foundation (NCCF), a non-profit organization established to provide long-term support of a broad range of community needs, nonprofit organizations, institutions, and scholarships. Through donations made in the HCWS’s name to the NCCF, the HCWS annually directs funds for art-related purposes to non-profit organizations located in the counties represented by its members.