In the autumn of 2006, visionary professional artist Bonnita Budysz, met with Executive Directors of the Lakeshore Natural Resource Partnership (LNRP) and the Wisconsin Maritime Museum. The discussion focused on forming a partnership of artists interested in painting out of doors from life (plein air) with the express purpose of targeting vital environmental issues. A core group of artists and interested parties met, and The Water’s Edge Artists (WEA) group was born! Envisioned as a fellowship of painters/conservation advocates, the group partnered with the non-profit LNRP, whose mission it was to restore watersheds in Northeastern Wisconsin through volunteer citizen action. This collaboration proved very successful! The artists met monthly at various sites to capture on canvas the beauty of prominent, as well as often overlooked wildlife and wetland areas.
An annual fall exhibit at the Rahr-West Art Museum became the focus of painting sales, a source of revenue for partnership projects. The Lakeshore Waterways Calendar show, an exciting multi-media event which included the ‘Visions of Water’ Exhibition, was the signature partnership preservation project for five years. Another early event was a youth mentoring program, ‘Art With A Purpose’, which aimed at instilling a sense of environmental activism in young artists with hands-on interactive projects in nature.
As substantial donors, WEA’s active advocacy efforts resulted in more than $70,000 garnered from art sales, collaborative grants, sponsors, and memberships that went directly to LNRP. As WEA’s fiscal agent, LNRP then invested the donation dollars to support the calendar project in addition to funding other environmental efforts.
In 2013, the Water’s Edge Artists group of artist activists became an independent entity, adding awareness for the need of historical preservation to its stated goals.
As an innovative and creative presence in the community, WEA has exhibited at many venues and galleries such as, the Miller Art Museum, the Plymouth Art Center, Silver Lake College, James May Gallery in Door County, Trout Springs Winery, and the Woodland Dunes.
Today, Water’s Edge Artists is still going strong and continues to flourish with its annual Rahr-West Art Museum ‘the Art of Preservation’ exhibit. Annual donations made to worthy groups such as the Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust, the Niagara Escarpment Resource Network, the Natural Resources Foundation and others are ongoing.
Water’s Edge Artists continue to come together monthly to produce inspired art works at paint-outs in both wild and historic places and at special fund-raising events. The mission to raise awareness of threatened spaces endangered places continues!
Water's Edge Artists (WEA) are "painters for preservation" and our art reflects a passionate interest in the conservation of land, waters, and historical sites in Wisconsin. Our artists come from as far north as Michigan's Upper Peninsula to Milwaukee in the south. We meet for monthly paint outs at historic or conservation sites. During the summer months, we partner with various organizations that are dedicated to these same goals by setting up our easels outdoors and painting "en plein air" at their fund-raising events. Through sales of our paintings, we have raised significant funds to further the conservation initiatives of the Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust, Niagara Escarpment Resource Network, Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin and others.