Saturday, August 1, 2020

Looking Back Into Society of Animal Artists' Past

Arthur D. Fuller with SAA VP William F. Bartlett and wife

Executive Director Wes Siegrist, recently received more SAA archive material from 1967 and 1968, from SAA member Doug Allen. It's always exciting to get newsletters, books, magazines, and other info about the Society of Animal Artists, uncovering the organization's history. It's even more interesting when photos of SAA members and past exhibitions are included, so I thought it would be interesting to share with you several of the images included in the recently received materials.

Elisabeth Rungius Fulda at 87 at the 1966 Society Members Exhibition

Elisabeth Runguis Fulda was a founding member of SAA and the organization's first president in 1960. Sadly, she passed away one year after this photo of her was taken.

Robert Lougheed and Don Eckelberry at the 1966 Society Members Exhibition

Jerome Connolly and wife with John Cameron Yizzarry at the 1966 Society Members Exhibition

Now fast forward 44 years, and here we are at the Hiram Blauvelt Museum in 2012, where this year's Members Exhibition will take place this fall. Happy faces in happy times back in 2012, while being able to attend the opening weekend festivities in person, without fear of a pandemic. Obviously, this year at the Blauvelt will be much different, but the museum will still be showcasing an amazing group of work!

Jump ahead another year, and here we are in 2013 at the Bennington Center For the Arts, in Bennington, Vermont. Since changes have taken place and the Bennington is no longer open to the public, these are now fond memories indeed.

The SAA Awards banquet in 2013

SAA Artist Kim Dimment gives a talk to the group of attending artists

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Memories From SAA Opening Weekends 2006, 2007 and 2009

I thought it would be fun to take a walk down memory lane a few times via the blog while visiting a few of the Society of Animal Artists (SAA) past Annual Exhibition opening weekends. These first four photos are from the 2006 opening weekend at The Bennington Center for the Arts in Bennington, Vermont.

A group photo of most of the attending artists

SAA dinners are always a fun time to catch up with fellow artists

SAA artists having a great time seeing the sights 

Enjoying a picnic lunch inside the Bennington Center For the Arts

The photo below is a group shot of most of the attending artists at the WIldlife Experience in Denver, Colorado in 2007.

SAA artists at the Annual Exhibition at the Wildlife Experience 2007

In 2009 the SAA Annual Exhibition was held at The Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure in Salina, Kansas. The opening weekend was great fun with SAA artists hanging out together while getting to spend lots of time inside the park, and were able to go inside the zoo in the mornings before it opened to the public, enabling us to get great reference photos of resident animals! The next seven photos are from that wonderful weekend!

SAA artists at the Annual Exhibition at Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure 2009

The opening reception at Rolling Hills

Meeting one of the critters living at Rolling Hills

Animal sightings at the Wildlife Museum

Artists enjoying lunch at Rolling Hills

There's something fishy about this informal SAA business meeting

Artists enjoying another meal together in Kansas

Until next time ~ Rachelle Siegrist for the SAA

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Jurying The SAA 2020 Members' Exhibition

     Well, it seems this year is bringing many changes in all aspects of life for many of us, including the Society of Animal Artists that has shifted to doing all our juries online. When the SAA started out, they used to jury their exhibitions from the actual works ... imagine having to do that now! Then they transitioned to jurying from works submitted via slides. Many of us, including me, remember submitting our works to numerous shows this way and having to tape the slides with a special heat resistant silver-tape, in order to block off areas showing around the actual artwork. It was a time-consuming process and your slides became cherished possessions. You always included a self-addressed, stamped envelope to be sure to have them returned to you after the jury process. 

Fast forward a couple of decades and now artists can easily submit online via the magical internet! Although the submission process was the same this year, the actual jurying process had to be changed due to the travel limitations associated with the COVID 19 virus, so instead of jurying in person whilst sitting in the comfort of SAA President ReneƩ Bemis' home theatre, the panel of 9 jurors juried the artworks on their own computer screens at home. Like years past, artist's names were removed from the works, and they were uploaded in random order to two dropbox folders, one for small works under 8 inches, and the other with all other regular-sized works.

The SAA 57th Annual Exhibition at the Hiram Blauvelt

The process actually worked very well, and the jurors were pleased with being able to take a little more time to look more closely at the works, instead of having to make almost a split-second choice, like has been done in the past when jurying in person. The show looks fabulous, so it's further proof that this method worked very well. On that note, the Board has also been having meetings with the online service, Zoom, which is working very well. So like I say, when life hands you lemons, you make lemonade, and that's exactly what this amazing organization is doing to make the necessary changes to keep moving forward.

The SAA 57th Annual Exhibition Awards Banquet at the Hiram Blauvelt

The 2020 SAA Members Exhibition will hopefully take place at the Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum August 29th thru November 1st. The show can be seen online via the SAA Website.

SAA artist Jim Coe demonstrates outside the museum

Until next time ~ Rachelle Siegrist for the SAA

Friday, May 1, 2020

Six SAA Artists Active for Six Decades

     This month I'm featuring SAA members from the first decade of the Society who are still active members today. The Society has seen a lot of change over the past 60 years, and it's been interesting to take a look back in time while reading about the history and hearing stories from our longstanding members, who are truly gems! So without further ado, here are some wonderful stories and insights from these very special SAA members.

~  Doug Allen  ~
Doug standing with his painting"Power Of One"
For Doug Allen, a favorite memory with the SAA was attending his first SAA meeting while being surrounded by the likes of Paul Bransom, John Clymer, Bob Lougheed, Bob Kuhn, Francis Lee Jaques, Louis Paul Jonas, and others. He remembers when artists had to submit their original artworks for the jury process. 

"Breaking Trail" by Doug Allen

A word of advice Doug would share with our newer SAA members, would be an adage from artist Paul Bransom  “If you can’t experience studying animals in the wild then go to your local zoo and draw, draw, draw.” Out of all the pieces Doug has exhibited with the SAA, his favorite piece was a painting done in 1985 of a bison entitled “Early Winter”. When asked what’s the biggest change he's seen in the art world since becoming an SAA member, he answered simply with, “It’s a puzzlement”.

~  Guy Coheleach  ~

     A favorite memory for Guy Coheleach with the SAA was how they used to make their chain-smoking president, Joe Vance, go out on the roof of the 6th floor to smoke his cigarettes, which was just outside where the rest of them held their monthly meetings at the Salmagundi Club. Sometimes after a particularly long meeting, they would have dinner at the Giraffe Restaurant located in mid-town. These Board members constantly showed up month after month, year after year in the sixties and seventies through all kinds of weather topped with New York commuting and traffic conditions. This was during a time when a handful of dedicated people kept a very fragile SAA from disappearing. Another fond memory for Guy associated with fellow SAA members was a fun incident that took place in the middle of the African bush when some rangers came walking up with a few books for Bob Kuhn and Guy to sign, and one of them had an SAA catalog!

"Snowy Owl Chase" by Guy Coheleach

Although it’s not his favorite piece, Guy's very fond of  “Siberian Chase”, an impressionistic painting of a tiger running in the snow. This painting finally freed him commercially from all of the meticulous detail he thought so necessary in years prior. Since becoming an SAA member, the biggest change Guy has seen in the art world is that too many works now look like photographs. His word of advice to our newer SAA members would be "I think if a person loves what they do and are not afraid of hard work they have to succeed.” 

"Snowy Egrets" by Guy Coheleach

~  Albert Earl Gilbert  ~

     SAA member Albert Earl Gilbert was elected as First Vice President shortly after becoming an SAA member and recalls what a great experience it was meeting Paul Bransom, Doug Allen, Pat Bott, John Clymer, and so many great artists at the Salmagundi Club in New York City, during which time he made numerous lifelong friendships. In 1974, Paul Bransom asked Albert to stay after an SAA meeting, where he told him, “Gil, try not to live into your 80s and outlive all your friends as I have now doneAnd another thing, don’t ever get shingles, which I have now, but I’m hoping to recover from. Meanwhile, I want you to become Acting President of the SAA and take charge of all meetings until I can return.”  Albert had no ambition to do that; however, when Paul chose him, he gladly agreed.  Albert did this for several years, and Paul gradually recovered. Given his health, Paul couldn't remain as President though, so he nominated Albert to become the SAA President, which he was from 1977 to 1984. 

"Cheetahs At Waterhole" by Albert Earl Gilbert

During Albert's presidency, the SAA established the first Annual Exhibition and Convention in March 1979 at the Explorer’s Club. Explorer Club member, Guy Coheleach, arranged for the speakers to give their presentations at this famous venue. Those who spoke were Roger Tory Peterson, Robert Bateman, Guy Coheleach, and Dick LeMaster. All SAA Annual Exhibitions were held at major venues such as the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, and the Blauvelt Museum of Art. He goes on to say how Guy Coheleach did so much work behind the scenes to promote the success of the SAA, and that many, many others also gave of their time and energy. Albert says that it’s hard to believe there were over 150 artists back then while recalling so many good memories, being glad he was there to participate.

"Egrets In Cypress" by Albert Earl Gilbert

~  George L. Schelling  ~

     SAA member George Schelling’s favorite times with the SAA were spent at the meetings and show openings. He knew many of the members back in the 60s and recalls what great times they all had to talk about art.  He’s sure he would enjoy the same wonderful camaraderie today, but traveling is harder now that he’s older. George loves that in this digital age with the internet allowing everything to be online, he can enjoy “visiting” museums that he’d never get to see in person.

"Sharks" by George Schelling
     These two members were unable to respond to my questions, so I am featuring one of their paintings featured in past SAA Annual Exhibitions. The SAA is especially indebted to Nancy for recently sending our office a treasure trove of historical documents pertaining to the Society.

~  Nancy Halliday  ~

"Moonlight Snack" by Nancy Halliday

~  John A. Ruthven  ~

"Elegant Hawk Eagle" by John A. Ruthven
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Until next time ~ Rachelle Siegrist for the SAA

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

60 Years of SAA Exhibitions

The Best Laid Plans ...

One thing constant in life is change, so along those lines, I've had to change the content line-up I had planned for the next couple of blog posts. Because of the COVID 19 virus, we've had to cancel our upcoming 60th Annual Exhibition for the Society of Animal Artists. So this month I've decided to interview the SAA Executive Director Wes Siegrist (AKA my husband) about the history of SAA Exhibitions.
Emily Kapes, Curator of Art and Wes Siegrist, SAA Executive Director at the 58th Annual Exhibition of the Society of Animal Artists at the James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art.

How many exhibitions have been held by the SAA?

Well, I would first have to clarify exhibitions. Since 1979, the SAA had considered our Annual Exhibition as our main event. Prior to 1979, they hosted a members' show each year. Alongside these, there have been various regional shows as well as touring venues derived from the earlier members' shows or later Annual Exhibitions. I'd also have to say we have a few early years with no historical records but all together, the Society has held at least 246 exhibitions. We also have nine additional upcoming exhibitions under contract.

How many different states have exhibitions been held?

From the SAA archives, at least 38 States have hosted SAA exhibitions. Additionally, the SAA exhibited internationally in Canada in 1995 and England in 2017.

SAA 1980 Exhibition/Convention, San Antonio, TX

How many artists have participated in exhibitions over the years?

SAA archives mostly just track the early member shows and later Annual Exhibitions so that's the only number I can be accurate stating. We are also missing records for 1960-1963. We know at least 863 different artists have participated in the SAA's main exhibitions. It would be well over a thousand total including all shows. Today, SAA exhibitions are members only. In the past, there were some guest artists and works featured from deceased artists of historical note.

How are shows now different than shows from the early days?

I could talk for a long time here! Guess I'll just limit it to saying in the old days, we had no jury (or a more lenient jury), we hung prints along with originals, and we allowed more than one work from each artist. All of these have changed now. We started with awards in 1979 and have gradually tightened our juries, judging, and overall policies. It should be noted that our membership grew significantly some years until our membership jury also became more strict. We've averaged about 500 members for the last decade which means getting into an exhibition with limited space is always a challenge!

SAA 1980 Exhibition/Convention, San Antonio, TX

Since you've recently spent time in the SAA archives, was there anything that you found especially interesting?

1. At least 17 different members have exhibited in 30 or more of our Annual Exhibitions! The top five in ascending order are Sue Westin (35), Kent Ullberg (36), George L. Schelling (37), Marilyn Newmark (42) and Guy Coheleach (48)!

2.  The SAA didn't start jurying our exhibitions until 1976. We had a smaller membership back then and members were encouraged to just submit their best work. The SAA Board required any show officially sponsored by the SAA to be juried starting in 1983.

3. The SAA added two new categories of membership starting in 2010. We recognized artists that have been juried into 15 or more annual exhibitions as "Distinguished Signature Members" and those who have received 5 or more Awards of Excellence as our "Master Signature Members".

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Until next time ~ Rachelle Siegrist for the SAA