Why "Watermark"?

The word watermark refers to the translucent design or label impress on many fine papers used in printmaking and other art applications. It also appears as an indicator of authenticity on paper currency. Many from this area think of its shoreline significance. The lakes, rivers and streams of the Minnesota are embedded in our culture and consciousness. As one board member stated, “Living here, our lives are marked by water.”

The word mark also holds meaning in the act of drawing and painting.

“Watermark” is therefore a name reflective of both the visual arts and our Northern Minnesota environment.

watermark new building

Watermark Art Center (WAC) is a non-profit, member-supported organization dedicated to encouraging the growth and development of art in our community. Watermark provides gallery space for exhibitions, author readings and  workshops. We display national, regional and local artists in group exhibits, solo shows and installations. Our gift gallery, SHOP 505, is open regularly to provide a consignment outlet for artists to sell their work to in-person visitors.

Watermark is proud to serve as a resource for the artist, art enthusiast, art buyer, and community as a whole.

Erik the Travel Guy PBS
June 2020 Erik the Travel Guy (PBS, filmed in 2019) visits Bemidji (Watermark at 6:08)

Watch Executive Director Lori Forshee-Donnay with “Erik the Travel Guy”
on PBS
(Watermark at mark 6:08) →

Watermark Art Center strives to increase art awareness by:

  • serving as an arts communication network
  • providing an arts facility for the community and artists
  • presenting and sponsoring quality art exhibits
  • organizing art festivals
  • generating active community participation
  • coordinating with other art organizations for a stronger arts community

Valuing a vibrant community, the Watermark Art Center’s mission is to nurture the growth, development of, and access to the visual arts in Northern Minnesota.

A Little History
Watermark began as the Bemidji Community Arts Center (BCAC). It was founded in 1982 after a merger between The Bemidji Community Arts Council, Inc. (established in 1970) and the Bemidji Art Center Association.

At that time, the Bemidji Community Art Center was located in downtown Bemidji in the old Carnegie Library on the shores of Lake Bemidji. Featuring three galleries exhibiting art from local, regional and national artists, the BCAC has made its home in this Classical Revival brick building with limestone trim. Designed by Fargo architect W. D. Gillespie and built in 1909, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places on November 25th, 1980. Owned by the City of Bemidji, the Bemidji Carnegie Library restoration was completed in 2019.

In October of 2012, the BCAC purchased the former Lakeside Luekens grocery store located across the street from Carnegie Library. In February of 2014, the BCAC changed its name to the Watermark Art Center. Watermark moved into its new location in the former Lakeside Luekens grocery store in December 2017. The new Watermark Art Center is also the home of the Region 2 Arts Council.


Carnegie Library Bemidji, MN summer

Carnegie Library 1913

Carnegie Library 1913

Pictures courtesy of the Beltrami County Historical Society


Watermark Art Center is committed to creating a diverse environment and is proud to be an equal opportunity employer. All qualified applicants receive consideration without regard to race, color, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, national origin, genetics, disability, age, or veteran status.