International eSports Leader Vlad Marinescu Earns Honorary Doctorate from the Academy

Vlad Marinescu
Vlad Marinescu

Because of his career of dedication to global sport and his leadership in the growth of eSports in the United States and around the world, Vlad Marinescu has been named the recipient of the United States Sports Academy’s 2020 Honorary Doctorate.

Each year as part of its Awards of Sport program, the Academy presents the award to a person who has made outstanding contributions to sport and to society. Marinescu is the President of both the International Esports Federation (IESF) and the United States eSports Federation. He also serves as the chief media and marketing officer for the International Judo Federation.

Marinescu will receive the Academy’s Honorary Doctorate at the institution’s combined graduation and Awards of Sport program on its campus in Daphne, Ala., on Thursday, 12 November 2020.

Born in Romania and raised in the United States, Marinescu has worked in leadership roles in international sport for more than 15 years. Marinescu was involved in the International Judo Federation’s recent modernization efforts in event organization, sponsorship, marketing, TV production and rights distribution. He also previously served as the Director General of SportAccord – now known as the Global Association of International Sports Federations – the umbrella organization for all international sports federations as well as organizers of multi-sports games and sport-related international associations.

The Academy’s Awards of Sport honor those who have made significant contributions to sport in categories as diverse as the artist and the athlete. The Academy’s American Sport Art Museum and Archives (ASAMA) annually recognizes these men and women through its Sport Artist of the Year, Honorary Doctorates, Medallion Series, Athletes of the Year and Alumni of the Year awards.

Brian Fox Named United States Sports Academy’s 2020 Sport Artist of the Year, Painter

Brian Fox
Brian Fox is the 2020 Sport Artist of the Year, Painter

Because of his meticulous attention to detail and uncanny ability to capture the iconic expressions of his larger-than-life subjects, nationally renowned painter Brian Fox has been named the United States Sports Academy’s 2020 Sport Artist of the Year, Painter.

A resident of Somerset, Mass., Fox specializes in painting the world’s greatest legends in sports and music. Fox has painted some of the biggest icons of our time, including the late Jackie Robinson, Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, actor Johnny Depp, boxer Muhammad Ali, baseball Hall of Fame shortstop Derek Jeter and soccer superstar Pele.

The Sport Artist of the Year award presentation is part of the institution’s annual Academy’s Awards of Sport (AAOS) event and reception on Thursday, 12 November, 2020 on the Academy campus in Daphne, Ala. The event, which is free and open to the public, is part of the Academy’s 36th Annual Awards of Sport program, a celebration of sport and art and a “Tribute to the Artist and the Athlete.”

The Academy’s Awards of Sport honor those who have made significant contributions to sport in categories as diverse as the artist and the athlete. The Academy’s American Sport Art Museum and Archives (ASAMA) annually recognizes these men and women through its Sport Artist of the Year, Medallion Series, Honorary Doctorates, Athletes of the Year and Alumni of the Year Awards.

“Being recognized by a prestigious organization such as the United States Sports Academy is an incredible honor,” Fox said. “I am as humbled as I am grateful.

“Having been selected for this honor is truly one of the highlights of my career, especially given that I’m in the company of such talented artists as Stephen Holland and LeRoy Neiman—previous recipients—who have positively influenced my life’s work.”

Fox has exhibited his works in New York City, Boston, Los Angeles, and Lexington. His art is featured in numerous galleries around the country. Over the course of a 20-year career, Fox has also been able to forge relationships with celebrities, athletes and corporations, and charitable organizations. Because of those relationships, Fox’s work can be found in many corporate and private collections, including those owned by singer Steven Tyler, NFL quarterback Tom Brady and supermodel Gisele Bündchen, actor Mark Wahlberg, NASCAR’s Dale Earnhardt Jr. and many others.

In addition to being honored as the official artist for the 2009 NHL Winter Classic, Fox has been selected as the official commemorative artist for Major League Baseball’s 2007- 2009 All-Star Games, as well as the official artist for the 2007 World Series held in Boston.

One highlight of Fox’s career happened when, in anticipation for the 2010 Olympics and 30th Anniversary of the “Miracle on Ice,” the artist collaborated with Olympic hero Jim Craig to create a collection of original artwork commemorating the United States hockey team’s historic victory over the Soviet Union in 1980. The first release in the series was a portrait of Craig draped in the American flag. Fox was also commissioned by a private collector to produce a one-of-a-kind collectors portrait commemorating the 30-year anniversary of “Miracle on Ice.” The portrait was signed by all members of the 1980 U.S. Hockey Team, including Craig. Fox’s work has been selected in the Society of Illustrators in New York and Los Angeles. The artist has also produced a series of original paintings exclusively for Walt Disney Parks and Cruise lines. Fox’s artwork exhibits and sells throughout the United States.

Greek Painter Mina Papatheodorou Valyraki Donates Silk Prints to ASAMA

Mina Papatheodorou Valyraki
Mina Papatheodorou Valyraki

Accomplished Greek painter Mina Papatheodorou Valyraki has donated several signed and numbered silk prints to the American Sport Art Museum & Archives (ASAMA) on the campus of the United States Sports Academy in Daphne, Ala.

Recognized as the Academy’s 2002 Sport Artist of the Year, Valyraki is known worldwide for her abstract expressionist paintings featuring a variety of subjects from athletes to automobiles.

The artist’s donated silk prints depict red Ferrari automobiles, sailboats, and Olympic competition. They join a large assortment of other pieces from the artist on display at ASAMA, including her “Daphne and Apollo,” which is featured prominently in the museum’s main lobby.

Valyraki’s pieces can be viewed across the globe in such locales as the National Gallery in Athens, the Olympic Museum of Lausanne and the United Nations Building in New York, N.Y.  Valyraki’s acrylic painting, “Still Life in Yellow,” became a permanent piece in the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C.

In 2013, she was awarded the Guirlande d’Honneur, the highest award presented by the Federation Internationale Cinema Television Sportifs (FICTS), an organization that promotes the values of sport through film and television.  In 2017 she received the FICTS Mention D’Honneur Award in Arts and Sports. She won the International Olympic Committee’s 2014 Art and Sport Award.

“Olympic Truce” by Mina Papatheodorou Valyraki

Her work, “The Downhill Skier,” became one of the official posters for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. In 2003, five of her paintings were included in a stamp collection issued by the Greek Post Office celebrating the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens. Her paintings were also featured on the official 2004 Olympic Games calendar and official posters.

In 1998, Valyraki received one of many notable honors of her career when she was commissioned as the official painter of the 35th anniversary of the Italian sports car brand, Lamborghini. Her nearly 60-foot long painting, “La Storia Della Lamborghini,” continues to adorn the Lamborghini headquarters.

Valyraki has become internationally known for her ability to capture the movement of athletes and to instill in her work a sense of perpetual motion through the use of impressionist technique, vibrant color, precise lighting, and gifted brush stroke.

A native of Athens, Greece, Valyraki earned degrees in painting from the Supreme School of Fine Arts of the National Technical University of Athens and in theoretical studies from the School of Fine Arts of Athens.  She earned a Ph.D. in History of Art from the University of Florence, Italy.

AOY 2019 - Nathan Chen - Kelly Sildaru

Nathan Chen, Kelly Sildaru Selected as the United States Sports Academy’s 2019 Athletes of the Year

Following an online voting period that garnered thousands of votes from all corners of the world, American figure skating superstar Nathan Chen and Estonian freestyle skiing sensation Kelly Sildaru were selected as the United States Sports Academy’s 2019 Male and Female Athletes of the Year.

Chen became the first American man since 1984 to win back-to-back world championships. Chen also won his third consecutive ISU Grand Prix Final and captured championships at the Internationaux de France and Skate America. He also won his third consecutive U.S. title, smashing the record for the highest margin of victory at 58.21 points.

At age 16 Sildaru became the youngest freestyle skiing halfpipe world champion of all time when she won gold in the event at the International Ski Federation (FIS) Snowboard, Freestyle and Freeski World Championships in Utah on 10 February 2019. Sildaru completed the first-ever switch 1080 performed by a female skier and won with a high score of 95.00 points. Sildaru also won gold, silver, and bronze in ski events at the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colo., in January 2019.

The male runner-up was Argentinian soccer star Lionel Messi and third place went to Norwegian biathlete Johannes Thingnes Boe.

Messi won the Ballon d’Or, soccer’s most prestigious individual prize, for a record sixth time in 2019. Messi scored 54 goals for Barcelona and Argentina and became Europe’s top scorer for the third consecutive season.

Boe finished the 2019 biathlon season with a clean sweep of World Cup titles in sprint, pursuit, mass start and in the overall standings. Boe won gold in the sprint, relay, mixed relay and single mixed relay events at the International Biathlon Union (IBU) World Championships in Osterund, Sweden, in March.  Boe also started the 2019-2020 season with a run of three victories in 10 kilometer sprint and 12.5 kilometer pursuit events in December.

The female runner-up was American gymnast Simone Biles and third place went to American swimmer Regan Smith.

Biles won five gold medals at the 2019 FIG World Championships in Germany, improving her career total to a record 25 world medals. During the competition, she completed two skills never performed by a female gymnast in competition: a double-double dismount on beam and a triple-double on floor. She also became the first woman since 1952 to win six U.S. all-around titles.

Smith broke Missy Franklin’s 2012 world record in the women’s 200-meter backstroke with a time of 2:03.35 at the 2019 FINA World Aquatics Championships in Korea in July. Smith also swam the backstroke leg in the 4×100 medley relay and set a world record in the 100-meter backstroke in that event.  She was named USA Swimming’s Breakout Performer of the Year. The Athlete of the Year awards are the culmination of the Academy’s yearlong selection process through which outstanding accomplishments of men and women in sports from around the globe are recognized. Each month, the public is invited to participate in the Academy’s worldwide Athlete of the Month program by nominating athletes and then voting online during the first week of every month.

Rosandich, Lester, Campbell

Atlanta’s Steven Lester Receives Academy’s Sport Artist of the Year Award

After four decades of leadership in the commercial creative field, Atlanta’s Steven Lester fully embraced his passion for painting and quickly gained notoriety for what he calls “representational expressionism.” Because Lester’s action sports themes resonate with vibrant life and elicit a visceral, emotional response, he was named the United States Sports Academy’s 2019 Sport Artist of the Year.

Lester received the 2019 Sport Artist of the Year – Dr. Znenliang He Culture Award from Academy President Dr. T.J. Rosandich and unveiled an original painting of American gymnast Simone Biles at the Academy’s 35th annual Awards of Sport program in Daphne, Ala. The painting, called “Courage to Soar,” depicts Biles performing on the balance beam at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The piece is now on permanent display at the Academy’s American Sport Art Museum & Archives (ASAMA) on its campus. Numerous other works by Lester are also on temporary display in the museum.

Growing up in Atlanta, Lester loved drawing, painting and playing sports. He played baseball through college and achieved a black belt in two forms of martial arts. After graduating from Georgia State University with a degree in Visual Arts, he began his career as a commercial illustrator with an emphasis on sports. He produced a series of Gameday program covers for Georgia Tech University, and his skills landed him a role as the Creative Director of Turner Broadcasting System. After getting a taste for television, Lester ultimately became a Vice President and Creative Director for two international advertising agencies, where he won more than 100 national and international awards.

Even though Lester achieved commercial success, he never lost sight of his lifelong ambition of becoming a full-time sports artist. Upon retiring from leadership in the advertising field, Lester shifted his focus to his love of painting. His dynamic, narrative subjects are both contemporary and imminently relatable. His work is in demand by major corporations, universities, art collectors, athletes and private individuals who appreciate his unique style and approach.

He was selected as one of only 16 artists in America to be a 2019 Fellow in the Clark Hulings Fund’s Art-Business Accelerator Program. Lester has been invited to stage several live painting events at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.

American Sport Art Museum & Archives Receives Unique Collection of Tennis Magazines and Books

Academy Library Director Dr. Vandy Pacetti-Donelson inspects the tennis magazine collection that was recently donated to the American Sport Art Museum & Archives.

The owners of an antique store in Ohio recently donated a unique collection of tennis magazines and books to the American Sport Art Museum & Archives (ASAMA) on the campus of the United States Sports Academy.

Priscilla and Greg Wilt of Sidney, Ohio, donated the collection of tennis magazines dating from 1974 through 2018 to ASAMA. The collection is not sequential, but instead the pieces follow the athletic careers of tennis stars through years of magazine feature photos and articles. Some of the all-time tennis greats are featured, including Andre Agassi, Bjorn Borg, Steffi Graf, Venus Williams, Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova and others.

The donated collection also includes biographies, memoirs, educational and instructional books, and ephemera of the game of tennis. The collection will be featured in a special display in the Academy’s Dr. Robert Block Library along with selections of tennis art held in ASAMA. “Not only do these magazines follow the careers of some of the great tennis stars, but they also show changes in tennis fashion, changes in tennis equipment, and they show how magazine design has evolved since the 1970s,” Academy Library Director Dr. Vandy Pacetti-Donelson said. “The collection presents some interesting study opportunities for scholars and students. You can see trends in athletic wear and hair styles, and you can also infer some things about what was allowed in tennis at the time and what was not.”

Former South Alabama Athletic Director Joe Gottfried Earns Academy’s 2018 Distinguished Service Award

Dr. TJ Rosandich and Joe Gottfried

President and CEO Dr. T.J. Rosandich and Joe Gottfried

Mobile Sports Hall of Fame chairman and former University of South Alabama athletic director Joe Gottfried has been presented the United States Sports Academy’s 2018 Distinguished Service Award (DSA).

Given for outstanding contributions to sport, the award was presented to Gottfried at the home of Academy Founding President Dr. Thomas P. Rosandich. Academy trustee and Art Committee member Susan McCollough presented the award to Gottfried.

Gottfried joined the University of South Alabama Department of Athletics in 1981 as assistant athletic director, then held the post of athletic director for 25 years beginning in 1984.

Gottfried’s tenure at the South Alabama was marked by success, as Jaguar athletic teams won more than 100 Sun Belt Conference championships and 10 Commissioners’ Cups for most successful overall program. Under his leadership, South Alabama’s athletic facilities grew tremendously, including completion of the 10,000-seat Mitchell Center, football practice fields and field house.

Gottfried currently serves as the chairman for the Mobile Sports Hall of Fame, which works to recognize and honor outstanding athletes and sports personalities from Mobile, Ala.

The Distinguished Service Award is part of the United States Sports Academy’s Awards of Sport, which each year serve as “A Tribute to the Artist and the Athlete.” The Academy presents the awards to pay tribute to those who have made significant contributions to sport, in categories as diverse as the artist and the athlete in several different arenas of sport. The awards honor exemplary achievement in coaching, all-around athletic performance, courage, humanitarian activity, fitness, and media, among others. The Academy’s American Sport Art Museum and Archives (ASAMA) annually recognizes these men and women through its Sport Artist of the Year, Honorary Doctorates, Distinguished Service Awards, Medallion Series, Outstanding Athletes, and Alumni of the Year awards.

Sculptor Lou Cella Presented Academy’s Sport Artist of the Year Award

Lou Cella Sculpture

Lou Cella was named the United States Sports Academy’s 2018 Sport Artist of the Year, Sculptor, during a recent art show on the Academy campus. Cella presented his piece, “Cobb Steals Third,” to the Academy’s American Sport Art Museum & Archives.

American sculptor Lou Cella was presented the United States Sports Academy’s 2018 Sport Artists of the Year, Sculptor, Award during a public art show and a “Tribute to the Artist and the Athlete” at the Academy.

Cella of Chicago, Ill., was presented the honor by Academy Trustee and Art Committee member Jack Scharr during the event on the Academy campus in Daphne, Ala. Cella is widely known for his works featured at famous sport venues across the United States, including Wrigley Field in Chicago; Comerica Park in Detroit, and the Green Bay Packers Heritage Trail in Wisconsin.

The event was part of the Academy’s Awards of Sport program, which honors those who have made significant contributions to sport in categories as diverse as the artist and the athlete. The Academy’s American Sport Art Museum and Archives (ASAMA) annually recognizes these men and women through its Sport Artist of the Year, Honorary Doctorates, Medallion Series, Athletes of the Year and Alumni of the Year awards.

Cella’s sculpture, “Cobb Steals Third,” is now a permanent part of the ASAMA collection. The piece is based on what is widely recognized as the greatest baseball action photo of all time. Shot by renowned photographer Charles Conlon, the photo depicted baseball legend Ty Cobb of the Detroit Tigers sliding into a base under the tag of Jimmy Austin of the New York Highlanders, who would later become the Yankees.

“Sports is a great unifier, and baseball I have found has this great family oriented quality to it,” Cella said. “My two great passions in life are sculpting and baseball, so when I am able to bring those together, it is a great, great thrill. And having my career come this far, and having this great (Academy) family invite me to be part of it, is just really humbling.”

Coming from a family of artists and growing up in the Chicago area, Cella studied both fine art and graphic design at Illinois State University. After several years working as a graphic artist, he moved to three-dimensional art working as a sculptor. His works range from extreme realism to existential creations, and he prefers to use fresh ideas from both to grow his works, which include both small and monument scale pieces in bronze.

In 1995 Cella joined Chicago’s famed Rotblatt/Amrany Studio of Fine Art, where his life-sized and larger works are in great demand for sport venues across the United States. Notable works include Harry Caray, Ernie Banks and Ron Santo at Wrigley Field; The Six Detroit Tigers and Ernie Harwell at Comerica Park in Detroit; quarterback Bart Starr for the Green Bay Packers Heritage Trail; Carlton Fisk at US Cellular Field in Chicago; and Ken Griffey Jr. at Safeco Field in Seattle.

“My parents are still alive, but my father is unable to travel. I truly wish my father was able to come here and see this,” Cella said. “I was never going to play for the Chicago Cubs, but as I often tell people who are interested in the arts, ‘don’t think because you won’t be a rock star, you have to give up being a musician… Don’t think that because you’ll never be quarterback at the University of Alabama that you can’t use your passion to be part of it in some other way. There is always something you can do. That’s something my parents helped me see.”

Cella’s sculpture of Ty Cobb at Comerica Park in Detroit was selected as one of the 25 Most Important Sports Statues by Complex magazine.

In addition to his works featuring the giants of sport, he has also sculpted historic pieces, including Orville Redenbacher for the town of Valparaiso, Ind.; Oakland University founder Matilda Dodge Wilson in Rochester, Mich.; and Father Hesburgh and Father Joyce memorials at the University of Notre Dame.

Painter Graig Kreindler Presented Academy’s Sport Artist of the Year Award

Kreindler and Raia

Graig Kreindler was named the United States Sports Academy’s 2018 Sport Artist of the Year, Painter, during a recent public art show on the Academy campus. Kreindler presented his work, “Putt Putt” featuring 1956 Philadelphia Phillies player Richie Ashburn, with Academy Art Committee Chair Nancy Raia.

Graig Kreindler, known as “The Painter of the National Pastime,” was presented the United States Sports Academy’s 2018 Sport Artist of the Year, Painter, Award during a public art show and a “Tribute to the Artist and the Athlete” at the Academy.

Kreindler, of Bronxville, N.Y., was presented the honor by Academy Art Committee chair Nancy Raia during the event celebration on the Academy campus in Daphne, Ala. Kreindler unveiled a piece “Putt Putt,” depicting Richie Ashburn of the 1956 Philadelphia Phillies, which is now a permanent part of the American Sport Art Museum & Archives (ASAMA) collection.

Kreindler’s work focusing on the quaint ballparks, lively personalities and dominating teams in baseball’s history has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Sporting News and on the YES television network.

The artist’s relationship with baseball began at an early age. His parents, both New York Yankees fans, named him after third baseman Graig Nettles. As a budding young artist Kreindler was inspired by his father’s baseball card collection and in particular, the 1940s cards that used illustrations instead of photographs of featured players.

“As a young kid I was drawing cartoons and superheroes, but when I saw those cards I realized that I could also take my love of art and draw Mickey Mantle and do something to make my father smile,” Kreindler said. “That has carried me on for my entire life. I’m 38 years old and even today when I do a painting – whether it’s a Yankee or not – I’m still thinking of my father.

“Being recognized for doing something that I love and that I have done for my father is just amazing,” Kreindler said. “I want to thank everyone at the Academy. Everyone I’ve met has been incredible. This is a highlight that I’m not sure I will ever be able to top. I am truly grateful.”

The event was part of the Academy’s Awards of Sport program, which honors those who have made significant contributions to sport in categories as diverse as the artist and the athlete. The Academy’s American Sport Art Museum and Archives (ASAMA) annually recognizes these men and women through its Sport Artist of the Year, Honorary Doctorates, Medallion Series, Athletes of the Year and Alumni of the Year awards.

Kreindler is widely known for his nostalgic paintings that capture in remarkable detail the simpler bygone days of sport. To Kreindler, no other sport embodies the relationship between generations and the sense of community like baseball. His goal is to portray the national pastime in an era when players were accessibly human, and the atmosphere of a cozy ballpark was just as important as what happened on the field. He is proud to act as a visual historian and his award-winning sports work has appeared in juried shows and museums nationwide, as well as having been featured in nationally distributed books, newspapers, magazines, and both Internet and television featurettes.

American Sport Art Museum & Archives Receives “Perfect 10” Donation of Rick Rush Serigraphs

McLaughlin Rick Rush donation edited

McLaughlin, left, is pictured with Academy Art Committee chair Nancy Raia and Academy President and CEO Dr. T.J. Rosandich.

Fairhope, Ala., resident L.D. McLaughlin Jr. recently visited the American Sport Art Museum & Archives (ASAMA) on the campus of the United States Sports Academy and donated a “Perfect 10” set of 10 serigraphs, each signed and numbered #10 in a series, by 2011 Academy Sport Artist of the Year painter Rick Rush.

The serigraphs depict various noteworthy moments in the history of football at the University of Alabama. Rush, known as “America’s Sport Artist,” has gained a worldwide following for his colorful paintings that depict a variety of sports.

“I took a tour of ASAMA here recently and I was quite impressed with the wide array of art and the facility here,” McLaughlin said. “I have enjoyed this art at my home, and I thought it was time to let someone else enjoy it. These serigraphs are just so real, so lifelike. They have a great depth to them.”

“While ASAMA has been the beneficiary of donations to the collection from literally all corners of the globe, it is particularly meaningful to us that this gift comes from a resident in the local community,” Academy President and CEO Dr. T.J. Rosandich said. “While works by Rick Rush are already well represented in the ASAMA holdings, this particular gift is singularly unique given that they are all number 10 in the run of serigraphs and share a common theme; that of Alabama football. These factors truly serve to make this a distinctive addition to the collection.”

Rush has depicted high-profile sports figures such as Joe Namath, Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, Muhammad Ali, Albert Pujols, Nolan Ryan, Bo Jackson and countless others. His works portray subjects of historic significance and include the Olympics, Super Bowls, World Series, and NCAA National Championships.

Numerous pieces of his art grace the walls at ASAMA including “Finishing Strong,” a NASCAR-themed original painting which was also donated to the museum and depicts legendary drivers Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. The artist also recently presented to ASAMA an original work, “Right on Course,” which depicts famed golfer Bubba Watson winning his historic second Masters championship.

Rush, of Tuscaloosa, Ala., is the Academy’s 2011 Sport Artist of the Year in painting. The award is presented annually to an individual who captures the spirit and life of sport so that future generations can relive the drama of today’s competition.

“The Academy and its museum are an artistic marvel for me,” Rush said. “The Academy has made sports art not just an aside but a primary genre of high art and fine art. The museum and what the Academy has done culturally around the world is marvelous, touching people and building an awareness of the world of fine art in sports.

“The Academy is impacting people and countries and cultures through the universal language of sport and art,” Rush said. “What a great work, coming together to develop cultural stability and integration around the world. It is a great platform.”

Not only has Rush’s art been featured and collected around the world, the painter has also played a significant role in the world of sports art on the legal front, winning important gains for artists.  In 2003, Rush won a court battle for his right to draw, paint, and sell the images of star athletes when Tiger Woods sued for royalties on a painting Rush made of the golfer following the 1997 Masters. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Rush’s favor, finding paintings to be a form of artistic expression protected by the First Amendment.

The Academy has prints of Rush’s works and other art available from the Academy bookstore at http://bookstore.ussa.edu/.