In 1987 the Northern National Art Competition began with a mere thirty-seven entries. Twenty-nine years later, the show now attracts the work of artists from all across the United States, hundreds of entries as diverse as the artists themselves. The Northern National Art Competition is a cooperative venture between the Northern Arts Council, an umbrella organization formed to promote the arts in our area, and Nicolet College, an institution of higher learning in both the technical and liberal arts fields. From its inception Nicolet College has supported a strong art department, offering a wide variety of arts courses. Resources from both the Northern Arts Council and Nicolet College combine to provide the organizational expertise, facilities, volunteer help, and financial support to produce this show.
A hallmark of the show has been the selection of prominent judges. Each years an outstanding judge awards prize money that comes from entry fees as well as local arts patrons. The judge for the first show was the late Richard Thompson, a nationally known American impressionist. Subsequent judges have included Richard Karwoski, Jantje Vissher, Glenn R. Bradshaw, Carole D. Barnes, Leland Wallin, Katherine Chang Liu, Allan Peterson, and James M. Auer. Our first decade ended with Philip Perlstein awarding the prizes. In 1998, Betye Saar judged the show, followed by judges Christopher Brown, Betsy Damon, Ed Paschke, Barbara Rose, Keith Jacobshagen, Katherine Sherwood, Dana Saulnier, Phyllis Galembo, and Terry Suhre, in succeeding years. Betty LaDuke judged the show last year.
The collaboration brings a national art show to northern Wisconsin. The Northern Arts Council and Nicolet College are proud of the fine tradition that continues with each year's Northern National Art Competition.