Born in Sauquoit, New York, Anita was a deeply passionate and devoted visual artist. She received a BFA in Painting from SUNY New Paltz and subsequently co-founded the Women’s Studio Workshop (WSW) in Rosendale along with artists Barbara Leoff Burge, Ann Kalmbach, and Tatana Kellner. Anita’s love of music, especially jazz, connected her to the Creative Music Studio (CMS) in the late 1970s/early 1980s, where she wrote state and federal grants. There, she met and heard the live music of celebrated jazz greats Ornette Coleman, George Lewis, John Zorn, and Cecil Taylor, among others. Jazz greatly influenced her art — her canvases are striking for their playful rhythms of line and color, and jaunty angular convergences that come alive, eliciting a unique buoyancy.
She worked at WSW until 1980 and then moved to New York City. Anita believed strongly in the mission of benevolent non-profits, working tirelessly for the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, The Trust for Public Land, and the Coalition for the Homeless. She returned to the Women’s Studio Workshop in 1995 and remained there as Director of Development until her retirement in 2017. Anita was often the linchpin between women artists around the world as she continuously networked, connecting artists to one another and encouraging them to develop their art at WSW.
Anita actively exhibited her work at galleries including SUNY Ulster, Donskoj, WSW, KMOCA and at the Galeria Nacionale in San José, Costa Rica. She travelled extensively and was an artist-in-residence in Spain, France, and Costa Rica, and at Blue Mountain Center and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA), among other U.S. residencies.
An avid letter writer, reader, and lover of literature, some of her favorite poets (and there were many) were Louise Glück, Mary Oliver, Wallace Stevens, and W.S. Merwin. For years, she studied writing with writer and performer Steve Clorfeine. As a lover of live dance, she enthusiastically attended performances of the Merce Cunningham, Twyla Tharp, and Martha Graham dance companies, along with many others.
About ten years ago she became a member of the Shambhala meditation path at Sky Lake in Rosendale, a meditation center. This was Anita’s mantra:
May I be happy with myself today
May I be peaceful with things as they are
May I love myself unconditionally here and now,
and may I live with joy and peace
The opening of an exhibition of Anita’s artwork (video-walkthrough can be viewed here) and a celebration of her life was held at Women’s Studio Workshop on May 22nd 2021, and the Anita Wetzel Fellowship for Visual Artists has been founded in her name.