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Posted on: April 29, 2021

Texas Artist Stephen Zhang Takes Top Award in Watercolor USA 2021

Watercolor USA evergreen seal with Stephen Zhang's abstract watercolor painting "Hidden."


Springfield, MO. (April 29, 2021) – The Springfield Art Museum is pleased to announce that Plano, Texas artist Stephen Zhang has won the Kenneth M. Shuck Memorial $3,000 Cash Award for his entry, Hidden, in this year’s Watercolor USA annual juried exhibition. Plano is located just north of Dallas, Texas.

This is the third year in a row that an artist from Texas has taken the top award, and the second top award in the last three years for Zhang. Born in China, Zhang graduated from Luxun Academy of Fine Arts. Later, he received his MFA degree from University of North Texas. Zhang has been painting watercolor for over 30 years, under the tutelage of his father Defu Zhang and the late professor Rob Erdle, whose work is included in the permanent collection of the Springfield Art Museum. Zhang is an Assistant Professor at the University of North Texas and has served as a Creative Director for Fossil, Filson, and Lodge26 Branding Agency. Zhang has won numerous awards for his watermedia works including awards from the Signature American Watermedia International Exhibition, the Transparent Watercolor Society of America, the Chinese National Art Exhibitionl, and Art Olympia (Japan). His work has been featured in American Art Collector, International Artist, and Watercolor Artist, among many others.

Organized in 1962, this year marks the 60th year of Watercolor USA. The nationally known exhibition is open to artists from all 50 states and U.S. territories, and seeks to discover what is new and what is next in the world of contemporary American watermedia. This year’s exhibit was judged by Nick Nelson, Museum Director of the Springfield Art Museum. Of the 399 entries submitted by 232 artists from 44 states and the District of Columbia, Nelson selected 96 works by 95 artists representing 32 states for inclusion in the exhibition. Overall, 17 artists from Missouri were selected for the exhibition including Carolyn Wallace (Ava); Judge Bockman (Battlefield); HJ Schumer (Bois D’Arc); Robert Langford (Branson); Diane Stolz (Kansas City); Lana Cease (Maryville); Kelly Eddington (Monroe City); Maureen Brodsky (Olivette); Cindy Kopenhafer (Pleasant Hope); Mary Jane Mooneyham (Republic); Alicia Farris, Les Hagemann, Steve Henry, Todd Lowery, and John Short (Springfield); Trevor Doell (Walnut Grove); and Barbara Williams (West Plains).

According to Museum Director Nick Nelson, “As juror, I saw my challenge as unifying the multifarious entries into a coherent exhibition while identifying the best of these works of art. To do so, I categorized the work according to theme… These themes included: landscape, portraiture, still life, street scenes, works inspired by nature, experimental works, abstraction, folk art, architectural images, and a special category I labeled “2020.” Works in this category were marked by the extraordinary times in which we find ourselves, which manifested in ways both obvious and more subtle… Having experienced my share of Watercolor USA exhibitions in my almost 9 years with the Museum, I have never felt so strongly the contemporary moment in the works, as in this iteration of the show. While theme, subject matter, and technique vary, the shared experience of 2020 united so many artists in this year’s offering and indeed unite us all.”

Exhibitions Manager Cindy Quayle notes, “For the first time, in 2020, we presented a wonderful virtual tour through the entire exhibition. This link on our website allowed many more people to view the exhibit even when they were physically unable to attend due to not only the pandemic, but challenges with distance and travel arrangements.  The virtual tour was so successful that we will feature this online viewing opportunity again for 2021.”

Other top award winners include:

- Greg G. Thielen Memorial $2,000 Cash Award: Andrew Kish III (Pennsylvania), Distortio Obscura

Bill Armstrong Memorial $1,500 Cash Award: Sheli Petersen (Texas), Mockingbird

- Robert E. Goodier Memorial $1,000 Cash Award for Traditional Transparent Watercolor: Jackie Dorsey (Georgia), Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang

In addition to the Springfield Art Museum awards, the Watercolor USA Honor Society provides 11 additional $300 cash awards, three artist materials award packages valued at $500 each, and a $500 reciprocal Award of Excellence from the National Watercolor Society. These awards are selected by Watercolor USA Honor Society board members. See all the award winners and more at Watercolor USA, beginning on June 5 through August 29, at the Springfield Art Museum located at 1111 East Brookside Drive. Due to ongoing public health concerns, the opening reception for this exhibition has been cancelled. The Watercolor USA reception has a long history of generous support from the Southwest Missouri Museum Association. Admission is always free. Donations are gratefully accepted.


The Springfield Art Museum is Springfield, Missouri’s oldest cultural institution, founded in 1928. A department of the City of Springfield, the Museum invites you to connect with the world, your community, and yourself through active engagement with art objects. For more information, please visit or contact Joshua Best, Museum Affairs Officer at (417) 874-2859 or

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