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