ART THAT INSPIRES: Kessler Collection announces ‘The Next Original’ competition winners

Richard Kessler (center) with artists in the competition.

On Nov. 7, the Kessler Collection, which boasts several luxury hotels throughout the country, launched a nation-wide competition to find the next great artist. 

“The Next Original” competition closed on Dec. 10, receiving submissions from more than 1,800 artists. 

After reviewing the more than 5,000 original pieces of art, Richard Kessler, the Chairman and CEO of Kessler Enterprise, Inc., and his panel of judges identified nine finalists:

  • Deirdre Barret, Cambridge, Mass.
  • Shannon "Shan" Fannin, Austin, Tex.
  • Olga Furman, East Brunswick, N.J.
  • Alfredo Gonzalez, San Francisco, Calif.
  • Karin Holzer, Long Island, N.Y.
  • Hallie Packard, Brooklyn, N.Y.
  • Chase Parker, Tampa, Fla.
  • Laura Pawlik, Denver, Colo.
  • Elaine Schloss, Valley Cottage, N.Y.
These artists gathered in the Amethyst Ballroom of the JW Marriott at Plant Riverside District for their final judging, which took place on Dec. 16.

The artists come from all over the country and represent a variety of visual art disciplines. They also work with a range of different mediums. 

Submissions included paintings, sculptures, photography, mixed media, fiber, printmaking and more. 

The finalists are a group as diverse as their artworks.

“They come from all kinds of backgrounds. Some are teachers. One is a concrete mason — all kinds of backgrounds. But what’s interesting about it is that they always knew they were artists. They always had that passion,” said Kessler.

A known art aficionado, Kessler wanted to find a way to support emerging artists and  help them gain exposure for their artworks. The idea for “The Next Original” competition was initially sparked when Kessler was presented with a special opportunity.

“This came about in an unusual way. . . We were offered a large electronic billboard in Times Square . . . and we [decided] we would like to take it. And then we thought about how we could use our interest in art and our interest in emerging artists . . . to promote the artist and their art as a part of our culture and DNA in the Kessler group. So then the next step was [putting] together a contest to bring out these emerging artists,” Kessler explained.

The grand prize includes having the winning artwork featured on the electronic billboard in Times Square near the ball drop on New Year’s Eve. 

The art will also be showcased in the Kessler Collection’s newest properties. It’s a coveted prize that compelled many artists to enter the competition.

One such artist is Shannon Fannin from Austin, Texas. She found the contest online and decided to enter.

“I just happened across it, and I think it was the universe saying ‘this is for you.’ I thought, ‘well, why not?’ And I just threw my hat into the ring,” she explained.

After a career in marketing and raising a family, Fannin has decided to follow her dreams and pursue art professionally. Fannin describes herself as “a realist vehicle painter.” And she uses every tool at her disposal to create her vibrant vehicle paintings.

“I paint with my hands, my fingers, my palms and brushes,” Fannin explained.

One of the pieces she submitted for the competition is a painting of the 1971 Mercedes AMG 300, aka the “Red Pig.” 

Juxtaposing the realism of the race car against an abstract background, the piece is vibrant and captivating. She chose to paint this vehicle because it celebrates the underdog. Large and heavy, weighing in at nearly two tons, “The Red Pig” was an unlikely winner that people quickly discounted. However, the race car ended up winning in its division. It’s an inspiring story that Fannin relates to.

“This painting is kind of my life. I’ve done all these things in life and you get kicked to the curb and everything, but you keep going. . . This is one of my very favorite paintings [because] this one speaks to my heart,” she expressed.

She said she is elated to have been selected as a finalist for “The Next Original” and sees it as validation that she’s on the right track.

“When you’re creative, you’ll do something in your life and you’re thinking, ‘nobody cares. Why am I doing this? But then that one thing will happen and, ‘oh okay. I’m on the right path.’ I got recognition or I sold a piece, so keep going. That’s why I do it,” she explained.

For Fannin, winning would be “a dream.”

Elaine Schloss from Upstate New York is another finalist with her eye on the prize. She learned of The Next Original competition from her niece and decided to apply. She does figurative and portrait paintings, and describes her work as “emotional, dramatic and dynamic.”

Schloss connects with her models to breathe life into her works and is adept at capturing the emotional context that the model is experiencing. For Schloss, her art is all about connection, not only between her and the model, but between her art and its viewers.

“People say if a tree falls in the forest, and nobody’s around, does it make a sound? I don’t know the answer to that, but I know that if you paint a painting and nobody sees it, it’s not complete. It’s complete when somebody feels it. . . And that’s success to me,” she explained.

Schloss said she is excited by the opportunity to have her work featured in Kessler properties, but she’s also glad to be in the company of other talented emerging artists.

“The artists are all fabulous. . . Each one has a story and each one’s work is just really lovely and different. . . It happens that they’re all wonderful, so I’m really excited,” she beamed.

With such a talented group of finalists, Kessler and the judges had their work cut out for them. There are two qualities that they considered when evaluating the submissions.

“What was amazing is that we graded . . . from the artistic quality and also from the salability. Those were the two criteria that we looked at. Because as an artist, being creative, you have to have the creativity first. It’s also helpful if you have the salability in that art because you have to make a living. So being able to sell is very important. . . So we looked at both, and it was amazing across the board,” Kessler explained.

From the nine finalists, Kessler and the judges couldn’t narrow the competition down to just one winner. So, they decided to declare all of the finalists grand winners. 

All of the finalists will have their artwork displayed in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, and they will all be exhibited at Kessler properties throughout the United States.

“It’s my honor to do this because these people have spent their lives perfecting their art. They’re emerging artists and they’re working very hard at it, always striving to get there. That’s what these people are doing. . . We want to sponsor and encourage young and existing artists in their work because it is important. . . These are smart, capable, loving people who want to give to society, and their art is their gift,” said Kessler.

Kessler plans to hold more competitions in the future to give emerging artists across the country a platform to showcase their work. 

For more information about the competition, visit

About The Author

Chantel Britton

Chantel Britton is a compelling storyteller with an ever-growing curiosity. She's built a rewarding writing career for herself in addition to serving five years as a Public Affairs Officer in the U.S. Army Reserve. She's an NPR nerd with a deep passion for all things travel, sustainable living and adventure. She...
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