Painter Graig Kreindler and sculptor Lou Cella were presented the United States Sports Academy’s 2018 Sport Artist of the Year awards 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.
Cella of Chicago, Ill., was presented the honor by Academy Trustee and Art Committee member Jack Scharr during the event. Cella’s sculpture, “Cobb Steals Third,” is also 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.
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.
Known as “The Painter of the National Pastime,” Kreindler’s work focuses on the quaint ballparks, lively personalities and dominating teams in baseball’s history. He 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.”
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.
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.
“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.
“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. 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.”