The North Country Arts Council was first established in 1948 by a few artist friends of Mary Morely, as the Amateur Arts Association. The organization changed its name in 1949 to the Watertown Artists’ Guild. At that time the Artists’ Guild geared towards the area of fine arts.
The first annual spring show was held at the American Legion on June 18, 1949. The show had several different homes until the early fifties where it turned into a sidewalk show at the Jefferson Historical Society. At this point they were hoping to draw more attention to the Artists’ Guild.
In the early fifties “The Guild” started classes for children at the YWCA. They also started loaning artwork to hospitals, schools and the Flower Memorial Library.
Later on “The Guild” with the name changed once again to the “North Country Artists’ Guild” gave paintings to banks, schools and apartment buildings. They also helped establish an art auction at WNPE/WNPI, which is an annual event that goes onto this day. Another art auction was help at Bonnie Castle resort. A sculpture show was also established in the early 2000’s.
Throughout the years “The Guild” continued fine traditions since establishing space in the Paddock Arcade, called the “Landmark Gallery” and also maintained space at its Court Street location until 2007. One tradition of the Artists’ Guild is that has never left if the annual Fall Art Show. This has kept the Artists’ Guild alive through many name and organization transitions.
After reduced membership and a small Annual Art Show in 2008, the North Country Artists’ Guild was reborn. A small group of individuals met to discuss its reorganization, and in January of 2009, a new board was elected to the Artists Guild. A few months later a vote was cast to change the name to the “North Country Arts Council”. It was agreed that with the name change, the new organization would encompass all forms of arts.
In summer of 2009, the first Annual Summer Arts Festival was held at Thompson Park. It has since expanded to downtown Watertown. In fall of 2009, the Annual Juried Fall Fine Arts Show continued at the Dulles State Office Building. In 2010, the NCAC moved to 52-54 Public Square in the historic renovated Franklin Building and established “Arts on the Square,” an arts gallery, education and public art space.
The council conducted fundraisers such as the Annual Fall Dinner at the Clipper Inn, and in 2011 a major fundraiser, “Enchanted Evening Gala” at Thompson Park. The NCAC, in partnership with WWNY-TV7, helped establish the Arts All-Star program, which acknowledges the accomplishment of high school students in the arts.
In 2018, the NCAC closed Arts on the Square and moved into the Northern New York Community Foundation Non-Profit Collaboration Center, revised its goals and rededicated to its mission to promote all aspects of the arts, expand community outreach and promote arts education.