“A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
On March 14, 1991 a small but determined group of individuals founded the National Oil and Acrylic Painters’ Society (NOAPS). The primary purpose for this not-for-profit organization was an annual national juried art exhibition and competition that came to be known as NOAPS annual ‘BEST of AMERICA’ exhibit. The idea for this exhibition was to offer an opportunity for artists and for the public to interact while insuring the perpetuation of the art of painting in oil and acrylic At the same time, there was a desire to add to the cultural enrichment and awareness of artistic talent in North America
The first ‘Best of America’ Exhibit took place at Columbia College Lake Campus in Osage Beach, Missouri. At that occasion, Dr. Don Ruthenberg, then President of Columbia College, said:“I think this will become a monumental event.” He was right on that evening of October 12, 1991 in the presence of the sixty selected paintings for that first show. Sidney Larson, professor of Art at Columbia College and Fine Arts Curator was the exhibition judge and she asserted that by its very nature, the exhibition delineated a broad profile of American Art. And, it still does! Hence, were NOAPS proud beginnings.
Twenty two years have passed since that first ‘Best of America’ exhibit but the mission remains intact. In 1993, the exhibition was shown at the prestigious Ella Carothers Dunnegan Gallery of Art in Bolivar, Missouri. From there on and until 2004 the ‘Best of America’ exhibit opened either at Columbia College or at the Dunnegan Gallery of Art travelling some years to multiple locations. Countless people have worked to make it possible since those early beginnings till present time. Prospectus, registrations, installations, shipments, and of course the extremely difficult task of selecting only 60 to 90 pieces of art from an average 700 entries every year. Among these individuals from our past with the arduous job to judge, there are recognized artists, art professors, or editors of art magazines. Just to name a few: Sharon Hunter (judge 1999 & 2006), M. Stephen Doherty (judge 2007 and 2010), Jennifer King (judge 2004), and Thomas Tierney (judge 2011). To all the judges for every exhibition go our appreciation and salute.
It is interesting to observe the transformation of the annual ‘Best of America’ catalog through the years. They became more colorful and elaborate with time. NOAPS own logo also changed through the process and it developed into a sophisticated gold logo that encompasses the level attained by the society. In the year 2000, the cover page of the catalog was enriched with total color coverage for the first time.
For artists, just to be selected into the ‘Best of America’ exhibit has always been an honor. Many of them received additional recognition through the numerous awards bestowed by the society or by the various Suppliers Awards provided by sponsors. However, probably the top award for NOAPS artists is to be included in the Signature Artist Guild which allows them to use the NOAPS designatory letters after their name or signature as acknowledgment of artistic achievement.
It is not easy to be included in the NOAPS Signature Artist Guild. As a matter of fact, less than 120 members have earned this distinction in the past twenty-two exhibitions from hundreds entering the Annual ‘Best of America’ Exhibit. To be included, artists meet the criteria when their art is accepted and exhibited in three out of five consecutive NOAPS annual ‘Best of America’. We are very proud and we recognize these members for their consistent excellence. Among them, we must mention NOAPS first nine Signature Artists inducted in the first five years of the selection criteria (1991-1995): Hilary Eddy, Loreta Feeback, Ron Ferkol, Jean Kalin, Robert Klausing, Susan Lindsey, David Norstad, Nancy Teague, and Monique Sakellarios. Most impressive is that eight out of these nine first Signature Artists are still active members of NOAPS and they are participating in current exhibitions such as NOAPS On-Line Exhibition as well as following us in Facebook. The names of all the Signature Artists can be seen in our website at http://www.noaps.org/html/signature-artists.html
Among the Signature Artist Guild, there is a selected group of seven that have achieved the recognition of Master Artist designation which is awarded to Signature Artists whose work has been selected for awards for three consecutive years: Tom Altenburg, Donald Curran, Fred Doloresco, Misty Martin, Benjamin Shamback, Jean Stone, and Sarah Van der Helm. To all our Signature Artists selected through our 22 exhibitions, thank you for setting a high bar for all NOAPS members to reach. We are proud to showcase your work in oil and acrylic.
NOAPS history continues and our 23rd ‘Best of America’ exhibit will open this October again at the prestigious Ella Carothers Dunnegan Gallery of Art in Bolivar, Missouri, USA. Registration is now open through www.juriedartservices.com We invite all artists to be part of NOAPS long and proud history.
‘BEST OF AMERICA’ EXHIBIT – AWARD JUDGES from 1991 to 2012
1991-Sidney Larson, Professor of Art, Columbia College, Columbia, MO
1992-Henry Adams, Curator of American Art, The nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO
1993-Joan Carpenter Troccoli, Director, Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, OK
1994-Marianne Berardi, Director of the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art, St. Joseph, MO
1995-Frank J. Sisser, Editor U.S. ART Magazine
1996-Marsha Hollander Parker, Dean, Fine and Performing Arts, Lindenwood Collage
1997-Marlene Perchinske, Director of UMC Museum of Art and Archaeology
1998-M.Stephen Doherty, Editor-in-Chief, American Artist Magazine
1999-Sharon Hunter, Vice President-Academic Affairs, Lyme Academy of Fine Art. Old Lyme. CT
2000- Frank Sisser
2001-Kevin Warren Smith, Coordinator of Program Development, Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, OK
2004-Jennifer King, Former Editor of the International Artist Magazine
2005-Awards Committee, Barbara Lamy Cooney, Missouri Citizens for Art, Harold C. Hill, Society of Fellows of the Nelson Atkins Gallery of Art, Mark Nichols, Past President of NOAPS
2006-Sharon Hunter, Vice President, Academic Affairs, Lyme Academy of Fine Arts, Old Lyme, CT
2007-Stephen Doherty, Editor in Chief on America Artist Magazine
2008-Tom Tierney, Co-Publisher of Art of the West Magazine
2009-Duane King, Executive Director of the Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, OK
2010- M. Stephan Doherty, past Editor, American Artist Magazine
2011-Tom Tierney, Co-Publisher, Art of the West Magazine
2012-Jackie Warren, Marketing Director, Kansas City Artists Coalition
The history of NOAPS and the ‘Best of America’ Exhibit for this article was researched by Joe Ray Kelley, NOAPS Executive Director.