The Bennett Prize for Women Figurative Realists is pleased to announce the jurors for the 4th iteration of The Prize, the call for entries for which will open on April 15, 2024, and which will be awarded at the Muskegon Museum of Art in Muskegon, Michigan on May 15, 2025. These jurors are:


Angela Fraleigh earned her M.F.A. from Yale University School of Art and her B.F.A. from Boston University. Her oil and mixed media work is a combination of realism, abstraction and classical figuration that explores a variety of themes including femininity, gender, sexuality, and relationships. Her solo exhibitions include Hirschl and Adler Modern and PPOW Gallery in New York, Inman Gallery in Houston and Peters Projects in Santa Fe. She has exhibited at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City. She is also the recipient of several awards and residencies including the Yale University Alice Kimball English grant, The Sharpe-Walentas Studio Program in Brooklyn, New York, The CORE program in Houston, Texas, and the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Omaha, Nebraska, among others. Fraleigh has created site-specific solo projects for the Edward Hopper House Museum, the Vanderbilt Mansion Museum, the Everson Museum of Art, the Delaware Art Museum and the Weatherspoon Art Museum. She lives and works in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where she is a full professor at Moravian University.


Gloria Groom is the Winton Green Curator of 19th-Century European Painting and Sculpture at the Art Institute of Chicago where she also serves as chair of European Painting and Sculpture. Groom received her Ph.D. in Art History from The University of Texas at Austin and holds a certificate in museology from the Louvre in Paris. A noted scholar of the Impressionists, Groom has been involved with numerous major exhibitions and the accompanying catalogues, including Cezanne (2022), Monet and Chicago (2020), Manet and Modern Beauty (2019), Gaugin: Artist as Alchemist (2017), Van Gogh’s Bedrooms (2016), and Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity (2012), among others. She has written for and edited volumes on Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Caillebotte, Gauguin, Manet and Cezanne. For her efforts on behalf of, and her contributions to, French culture she has been recognized by the Republic of France, which has named her an Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters and a Chevalier in the Legion of Honour, the highest French order of merit for which she has been named executive director of Initiatives in France, Chevalier d'Honneur, at the Art Institute of Chicago. Her current project is a retrospective exhibition on Gustave Caillebotte, to open at the Musée d'Orsay Paris in October 2024, the Getty Museum Los Angeles in February 2025 and at the Art Institute of Chicago in June 2025.


Dr. Elaine Melotti Schmidt is co-founder of The Bennett Prize for Women Figurative Realists and co-curator of The Bennett Collection, an art collection dedicated to paintings of women by women. Schmidt received her doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from Temple University and has worked or consulted in schools on three continents. With a special passion for reaching children living in poverty or born with learning or physical differences, Schmidt’s areas of specialization include early childhood education, special needs, second language learners, and at-risk student instruction. Schmidt lives with her husband, Steven Alan Bennett, in Texas, where they are art collectors who specialize in realist paintings of women by women artists. This undertaking has afforded Schmidt the opportunity to meet many working women artists as well as to create a collection of paintings showing women from all walks of life. Schmidt has curated a number of art exhibitions including Visions of Venus/Venus’s Visions, which appeared at the Zhou B Art Center in Chicago in 2018, and, with Bennett, Painting the Figure Now at the Wausau Museum of Contemporary Art in Wausau, Wisconsin in 2021. She and Bennett are major donors to the Muskegon Museum of Art in Muskegon, Michigan, which will open its new wing, the Bennett Schmidt Pavilion, in 2025.


Margaret Bowland is a faculty member at the New York Academy of Art where she has taught painting for almost 30 years. She is widely exhibited and published, and her work is instantly recognizable by all who follow the work of contemporary figurative realist painters. Known especially for her paintings of women, the bodies of her figures are often covered with stage makeup, cake icing or other semi-opaque pigments which Bowland uses to describe the layered opacity of the self. Her paintings are explorations of the issues of identity, self-understanding, and maturation that investigate who her sitters are and what layers of themselves they have uncovered or, conversely, are unable to expose. Says Bowland, “Painting on skin is by intent a metaphor to expose basic questions of self-identity, which all people undergo internally as a part of the maturation process. It is also reflective of the last 500 years of global cultures, which sought to cover their women in makeup, powders, paints, even mud.” Bowland has been featured in a number of solo and group shows and in a plethora of art publications, including the New York Daily News, HiFructose, the Huffington Post, Fine Art Connoisseur, Hyperallergic, D Magazine and a variety of others. Her work is in numerous museum and private collections, including The Norton Museum of Art, The Frost Museum, The Greenville Museum of Art and the North Carolina Museum of Art, among others.