Tom Nachreiner was busy when the news was announced that he had won the 22nd National Exhibition Dorothy Driehaus Mellin Fellowship for Midwestern Artists from the Oil Painters of America. And when he heard he had a call from OPA, he thought he was in trouble.

“Old & Warm,” by Tom Nachreiner, 2013, oil on linen panel, 16 x 20 in. Won Best of Show at Cedarburg Plein Air.

“I had forgotten to put a wire on the back of my entry,” Nachreiner says. “I was at the Cedarburg Plein Air competition. I called them and apologized and said I would pay to have someone put a wire on it. Then my wife checked our e-mail and Facebook and said, ‘Oh, my God, you need to sit down and go to this site!’ It was a real shock.”

The $20,000 fellowship is described this way on OPA’s website: “In 2008, artist and philanthropist Dorothy Driehaus Mellin established a $20,000 fellowship to be awarded annually to one talented and deserving artist residing in the Midwest. The intention of the fellowship is to provide one artist with the unique opportunity to embrace his/her full potential as an artist unencumbered by financial constraints.” In Nachreiner’s case, it also meant the $3,200 purchase of his painting “Stretching.”

Tom Nachreiner

“It’s the largest monetary award I’ve ever won,” Nachreiner says. “Dorothy selected that honor, as she does every year. She and her husband have given a lot to the arts over the years. She said she thought my painting represented traditional oils really well.”

“Rainy Reflections,” by Tom Nachreiner, 2012, oil on linen panel, 16 x 20 in.

“Tavern Lights,” by Tom Nachreiner, 2013, oil on linen panel, 12 x 16 in.

The Wisconsin artist knows of many talented artists in the Midwest and says he feels honored to win the award from within such a stellar pool of painters. The fellowship will help Nachreiner aggressively grow his fine art career. “Sales of paintings help, but something like this really helps me continue strongly,” he says. “In art you have a lot of losses — materials, travel, it isn’t cheap. Something like this helps a lot.” The award is part of a stellar, momentum-building year that has seen Nachreiner win Best of Show at Cedarburg, earn signature status in OPA, and move further down the road of painting just for the love of painting. Nachreiner had a thriving illustration business that he set aside 15 years ago to focus on fine art. Now it’s all bearing fruit.

“Old Stone Shed,” by Tom Nachreiner, 2013, oil on linen panel, 12 x 16 in.

“It’s validated all my hard work,” says Nachreiner. “For days I couldn’t even react; it was overwhelming.”


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