What is Oil Painters of America?

Oil Painters of America is a not-for profit organization founded in 1991 whose primary mission is to promote and advance the cause of representational art through exhibitions and educational events.
OPA was founded by a woman named Shirl Smithson, who lived in a suburb of Chicago. At that time, she was extremely disappointed (to put it mildly) that the curriculum being taught in the art departments around the country had moved away from teaching what she felt was so she took it upon herself to start up the organization reaching out to the best artists across the country and Canada to join her.

While Shirl Smithson passed away in the late 90’s, her predecessors took up the cause and now Oil Painters of America has become one of the leading art organizations in North America (US, Canada, and Mexico).

OPA now stands at approximately 3,600 members – most of whom are professional artists that have spent years of training and honing their painting skills having attended rigorous art programs at some of the finest art programs across the country whether it be a university, art school, or atelier. Others might have taken a more unconventional approach and learned how to paint by attending workshops taught by some of the best painters in the country.
The organization has approximately 3 to 5 exhibitions annually across the country.

Membership in OPA

The organization is comprised of 3 different levels of membership. Artists who join become Associate members of the organization. Most of our members are in this category. After competing in a number of exhibitions artists are eligible to become a Signature member of the organization. This is difficult to achieve due to the size of the organization and the limited number of spots in each of our exhibitions. Finally the 3rd membership category is the Master Signature category. This category is reserved for a select group of artists who have achieved a certain level of excellence in all subject matter. We have approximately 55 members in this category.

How did OPA decide to come to Utah?

This is OPA’s first time to be visiting the state of Utah and we are thrilled to be coming to this beautiful part of the country.
Several factors go into selecting a location but the most important one is to find a gallery that has an exceptional reputation for selling high caliber art work. We need to know that they are respected by collectors and by the artists who are represented by them.
Secondly, we look for galleries located in strong art communities and St. George, Utah, is one of those places. We want to share this beautiful art form with the residents and who know, maybe even inspire someone to begin painting as well.

Don’t forget that some of these artists will eventually be recognized as having been one of the prominent artists of his/her time. (The next Manet perhaps?) Our members work can be found in private collections and museums around the world. One or two have been commissioned to paint past presidents, and our best artists work can be found in the homes of notable celebrities and on the walls of corporations, or his/her state capital or university.

How are the artists selected to exhibit?

OPA members who live in the western half of North America are eligible to compete in the Western Regional Exhibition. Artists are asked to submit entries for consideration and a jurying committee comprised of 5 artists – 2 Master Signature members and 3 Signature members are charged with selecting the show based on a ranking system. This year there were over 1,000 entries for the Western Regional Exhibition and only 110 artists were accepted.

Master Signature members do not need to apply to compete in OPA exhibitions. The organization believes it benefits everyone to have these well-known artists participate as much as possible and so we look forward to including them whenever possible. We are very pleased to note that there will be 20 of OPA’s Master Signature artists participating in this year’s Western Regional Exhibition.

The Masters

Juried Artists