Debra Joy Groesser, President/CEO
Nebraska artist, Debra Joy Groesser is best known for her impressionistic landscape paintings, particularly her plein air work. Debra's ability to render emotion, mood and a sense of place draws collectors worldwide to her work.
"Painting is such a spiritual experience for me. Nothing inspires me more than being out on location, capturing the subtle nuances of color, light and atmosphere that can only be achieved by painting from nature. When I find a subject that triggers a strong emotional response in me, I know that's what I have to paint. My greatest satisfaction is when the viewer has that same emotional response to my subject that I did."
Debra has participated in countless juried and invitational exhibitions. Her work has been featured in numerous national art publications, and she has served as a speaker at numerous events and on radio.
Debra is a signature member of the American Impressionist Society, Laguna Plein Air Painters, American Plains Artists and a Master Signature member of Plein Air Artists Colorado.
A note from your President:
Warmest greetings to you all as we start a new chapter here at AIS! As many of you know, one of our short term goals for our organization has been to pursue hiring a full time executive director. Until now, AIS has been run nearly entirely by volunteers, including myself and our officers, who are also full time professional artists with careers of our own outside of AIS.
Building on the legacy created by Charlotte Dickinson and the original founders, past officers and board members, over the last seven years the membership of AIS has nearly doubled. We are now offering two national juried exhibitions a year as well as expanded educational programming in conjunction with both shows. We’ve also updated our membership system and website, computerized financial records and offered more benefits to our members than ever before. The running of AIS has become a full time job, even with the help of many volunteers. As a 501c3 nonprofit with over 1700 members across the country, the time has now come to hire a professional full time executive director to take AIS to the ‘next level’ in serving our membership and carrying out our mission.
We are extremely pleased to announce Elizabeth Ahrens has been named Executive Director of AIS effective Monday, January 27, 2020. In this role, Ahrens will lead the executive operational duties, exhibitions, educational programs, communications, membership and the growth of AIS. We are excited about this new chapter for AIS and our members!
It's an honor and privilege to be able to continue my role as President/CEO of AIS, with my role transitioning to one of more oversight than day to day operations.
Finally, for those of you who don't know me, let me quickly introduce myself. I live in Ralston, Nebraska, a suburb of Omaha. My husband, Don, is running for his seventh four-year term as Mayor of our city. As you might expect, we are very involved in our community and enjoying serving. We have five grown children and seven grandchildren. I paint portraits and landscapes in oils, and am especially passionate about plein air painting.
Again, I am looking forward to another exciting year for AIS and hope to meet many of you this year. It is truly an honor to serve you.
All my best,Debra Joy Groesser
Cheryl St. John, Vice President
Colorado artist Cheryl St. John is a fourth generation Colorado Native, with a great appreciation of nature and the environment and the preservation of both. Cheryl works in oils to create impressionistic paintings of the rocky mountains of Colorado, the high deserts of New Mexico, the colorful hillsides of Tuscany and where ever else her heart may take her. Inspiration is all around!
Painting en plein air is always a challenge to Cheryl. The ever changing light and weather conditions create a sense of urgency that translates to a spontaneous and loose interpretation of the scene. "There is nothing like painting on location to catch the feeling of the moment, a beautiful stream in backlight, the smell of lilacs blooming on a warm spring morning or a crisp fall breeze in the middle of an aspen grove", she states. She hopes that these feelings come through to the viewer and tell the story of that particular moment and the joy she felt with each brush stroke to the canvas. Cheryl studied fine art and design at The Rocky Mountain College of Art and The Colorado Institute of Art, as well as with well known artists Kim English, Michelle Torrez, Michael Workman, Ken Backhaus and Robert Spooner. She is a current member of The Art Students League of Denver, signature member of The American Impressionist Society, Plein Air Artists of Colorado, and The Colorado Watercolor Society, and Associate member of Oil Painters of America. She has won numerous awards in local and national exhibitions and is currently in corporate as well as private collections around the world.
A note from your Vice President:
A brief note to let you all know how extremely honored I am to serve as Vice President of AIS. I am looking forward to another year of working with and getting to know each of you and I fully accept the challenges ahead for 2020. I have experienced many outstanding National AIS Shows and have been grateful and honored to have had the opportunity to show my work alongside the many talented artists of AIS as an Associate member and for the last 6 years as Signature member and Vice President.
As Vice President, helping to put together a national show is no small task.... it's a challenge that requires team work and lots of late night hours. I couldn't have taken on what was required of me without the leadership and help of Debra, Don, and Doreen. They are truly a joy to work with and learn from.... something I did a lot of the past 6 years! I look forward to working on another outstanding national show as a team and can't wait to see the many amazing entries from our talented members.
Just a bit about myself....I was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. My formal art education began with Rocky Mountain Institute of Art in the late 70's and Colorado Institute of Art in the 80's. Striving to make my living as an artist I entered the field of graphic design and worked for several graphic design and package design firms in the Denver area throughout the 80's and early 90's. My true passion was always in fine art though, and my heart was continually telling me to get back to painting. Finally in the early 90's I gave in and began to explore my desire for painting and enrolled in classes at the Art Students League of Denver. It didn't take long to realize this is where my lifelong passion was and decided to go for it, quit my job and paint full time! I've never looked back!
I feel so very blessed and fortunate to have the opportunity to fulfill my passion as an artist. How many people can really say they love what they do? As painters we get to live our dreams by creating works of art each and every day, something I will never take for granted.
I look forward to the year ahead, working to make 2020 the best year ever for our members as Vice President of AIS.
All my best,
Donald A. Groesser, our AIS National Treasurer, was born and raised in Weeping Water, Nebraska, where he grew up on the family farm. He holds a degree in accounting and has a wealth of business, sales and management experience, including 23 years at Union Pacific Railroad and 10 years with NCR/Teradata.
Don was one of three partners who owned an Omaha real estate firm and also he owned an auction company with his brother for many years. He recently learned that he attended the same auction school in Kansas City as the late AIS Chairman Emeritus T.R. Dickinson did! He is currently serving his 6th term (24th year), and running for an unprecedented seventh term as the Mayor of Ralston, Nebraska, (a city of 7,000 people adjacent to Omaha) and works part time in commercial real estate. He also volunteers his time serving at his church and performing benefit auctions for local charities.
Don has served as auctioneer for the Door County Plein Air Festival and for the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts (Montgomery AL) Biennial Art Auction for the past several years. Don and his wife Debra (AIS CEO/President) have five children and seven grandchildren.
Doreen St.John's paintings demonstrate her love of the natural environment. “I'm inspired by the way light
and color influence what we see and feel...not only in the landscape, but also in the human form. My work is really about Relationship in the deepest sense of the word - relationships between shapes, light/shadow, and between the viewer and the artist, scene, or subject. My hope is that my work engages, evoking an emotional response or memory in the viewer, allowing my feelings to come through in the work.” Li Po, an 8th Century Chinese Philosopher, said it best:
“I would not paint a face, a rock, nor brooks, nor trees,
Mere semblances of things...but something more than these.
That art is best which to the soul’s range gives no bound.
Something besides the form, Something beyond the sound.”
Born and raised in the art center and resort town of Saugatuck, Michigan, Doreen St.John exhibited artistic ability even as a small child, receiving art instruction from Cora Bliss Taylor, a graduate of the Chicago Art Institute and a well-known local artist. Although St.John pursued undergrad and graduate degrees in education, the need to create was always a driving force. She took her first watercolor classes at the Canton Art Museum in 1980 and later studied under watercolorist Bette G. Elliott of North Canton, Ohio, for 5 years and later went on to study with nationally recognized artists, including Edgar Whitney, Frank Webb, Neil Patterson, Alan Wylie, Frederick Graff, Marilyn Hughey Phillis, Stan Miller, Marc Hanson, David Jon Kassan, Joshua Been, and others. She continues to study to improve her work, believing that growth as an artist is a lifelong pursuit, working from life as much as possible, including portrait, figure, plein air, and studio work.
St.John has gained national recognition in major juried competitive exhibitions, winning awards in both oil and pastel, and has been awarded Signature status with the Oil Painters of America, the Pastel Society of America, and the American Impressionist Society. She is represented by the Eisele Gallery of Fine Art in Cincinnati, OH, Castle Fine Art Gallery in Fort Wayne, IN, and Hudson Fine Art & Framing in Hudson, OH.