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Oil Painters of America’s National Juried Exhibition finally arrives at Steamboat Art Museum

Richard Galusha, one of the Steamboat Art Museum's founders and now a volunteer known for hanging pieces featured in the museum's shows, oversaw where each of the 250 paintings would go for Oil Painters of America 27th annual National Juried Exhibition and Convention set for next week at the Steamboat Art Museum.
Matt Stensland
If you go: What: Oil Painters of America's 27th annual National Juried Exhibition Opening Reception When: 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, June 1 Where: Steamboat Art Museum, 807 Lincoln Ave. Exhibition will be on display through Sept. 3 If you go: What: Oil Painters of America’s Awards and Recognition Ceremony When: 8:15 to 9:30 p.m. Friday, June 1 Where: Chief Theater, 813 Lincoln Ave. If you go: What: Awards Ceremony After-Party When: 9:30 to 11 p.m. Friday, June 1 Where: Depot Art Center, 1001 13th St.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — For weeks, the Steamboat Art Museum staff and volunteers have watched trucks of paintings arrive every day for an exhibition the museum has been anticipating since its inception.

“Opening box after box of art, it’s like Christmas morning,” said Chris Gallion, SAM communications and events director.

FedEx and UPS trucks delivered 250 paintings from artists selected for this year’s Oil Painters of America’s 27th annual National Juried Exhibition and Convention, which will be held in Steamboat Springs for the first time.

The show opens to the public at 5 p.m. June 1 at the newly renovated Steamboat Art Museum followed by an awards ceremony from 8:15 to 9:30 p.m. at the Chief Theater and then an after-party at 9:30 p.m. at the Depot Art Center.

It’s been a long time coming for this particular exhibition.

A renovation, completed earlier this year, doubled the museum’s exhibition space to about 7,700 square feet and gave SAM the ability to showcase up to 200 to 400 pieces at a time.

“To be able to live in this town and have this quality of artwork available, that was the vision of the group who originally put the Steamboat Art Museum together,” said Rod Hanna, Steamboat Art Museum board president. “It presents something you wouldn’t ordinarily see in a small town like this.”

The show has been hosted at art galleries throughout the country. Often times, exhibition space is generally the biggest logistical hurdle.

Plans to bring the show to Steamboat Springs started with Shirley Stocks, who retired last year as SAM curator, when she met Oil Painters of America organizers at the Western Regional Show in 2016.

“We’ve had this scheduled for several years, and we were actually hoping to have this space completed by this time in order to host this exhibition because there’s no way we could’ve done it without the renovation,” said Hanna. “It was dependent on us doing that.”

Every inch of space is dedicated to paintings in the show with a different theme found on each wall, from landscapes with a pastel theme to a contrasting wall of vibrant colors.

“The idea really is to come in with no plan at all to see what works,” said Richard Galusha, one of the museum’s founders and now a volunteer who hangs pieces featured in the museum’s shows.

“It’s a process that really evolves as you continually work on it,” he continued. “Everything worked out through the strengths of each piece, and the concept was to make sure every wall had its own strength.”

“What’s very unique about this show is you’re not going to find many in the country with a collective group of artists who are at a very high caliber like this,” said Kathryn Beligratis, Oil Painters of America executive director.

Oil Painters of America is a nonprofit representing more than 3,400 member artists throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Over the years, the group’s national exhibition has garnered a reputation for being one of the premier art shows in the country, receiving more than 2,000 submissions each year for consideration.

From those, about 250 were selected and will be on display at the Steamboat Art Museum for the next three months.

Nationally renowned artist Craig Tennant, who is an Oil Painters of America master division artists — the organization’s highest level of signature artists — will judge the show. Beligratis said 35 awards will be handed out, including $100,000 in cash and merchandise. The Gold Medal award winner will receive $25,000 cash.

“This is the biggest exhibition we probably will ever have,” said SAM Executive Director Betse Grassby. “We have 250 of the best painters of America represented in this building right here in Steamboat.”

In addition to the exhibition, Oil Painters of America is bringing its annual convention to town. Activities begin on Tuesday with the “Rocky Mountain High” Wet Paint Competition, which continues until June 1.

Artists will also be painting throughout town Wednesday at the Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp and Thursday at the Depot Art Center. The plein air paintings they create will be on display in conjunction with the First Friday Artwalk from 5 to 8 p.m. June 1 at the Depot Art Center.

“We’re always looking for ways to expand the national show, and one idea was to put it into a museum setting,” he said. “When Steamboat Art Museum discussed its plans for renovations and upgrades with me, we immediately started talking about the possibility of having an OPA show at the new facility because it would be quite large.”

The museum offers more capacity to hang the exhibition pieces and more display time, Beligratis said. The traditionally month-long exhibition will be at SAM for three months through Sept. 3. All pieces are for sale.

“That museum is a gem,”Beligratis said. “You guys really had everything we’re looking for when hosting a show. It just affirms this decision.”

Artists, art students and the public are invited to attend the assortment of informative and educational seminars throughout the week during the convention. For more information or to register visit oilpaintersofamerica.com.

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email adwyer@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1.


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