NEWBURYPORT – The Newburyport Art Association recently introduced its “Master Artist Membership” category and is hosting its inaugural “Master Artists Exhibition” this year.

The new membership category is in response to feedback from artist members of the NAA who felt there should be greater opportunities and benefits for more “professional” artists who participate in gallery shows and juried shows.

“It really has been a labor of love,” said Sara Demrow Dent, board president – and also one of the master artists – at the association.

“We tried to do a membership that was attainable yet gave benefits to those more professional artists,” she said.

Dent joined the board five years ago, taking on the role of artists advocate, talking to members and finding ways to improve the association’s services. The Master Artist Membership had been in the works for years, she said, but the overwhelming response to the new membership was still unexpected.

Seventy-one master artist members have already joined, and some former members have rejoined the association to apply for the new membership category.

Dent is hopeful that even more of the association’s approximately 600 artist members will meet the criteria – having work shown in a gallery, participating in six juried shows, and winning an award at a juried show – and that NAA can help them reach the master artist level.

“The fact that people are engaging in this way and wanting to be a part of this I think is all a wonderful testament to our fabulous artists at the NAA and our community there,” she said.

To showcase the first round of master artists, the NAA will hold two shows, the first from July 16-28 with an opening reception on July 20 from 7 to 9 p.m., and the second from Sept. 17-29 with an opening reception on Sept. 21 from 7 to 9 p.m. The shows will be held at the Art Association, 65 Water St., Newburyport. Receptions are free and open to the public.

The artists participating in the first show are: Judy Miller Bailey, Tom Bailey, Diane Bragdon, Nancy Cahan, Donna Caselden, Patty deGrandpre, Cassie Doyon, Susan Ellis, Jeanette Steele Esposito, Noriko Fox, Sandra Galda, Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord, Renee Giffroy, Cara Gonier, Law Hamilton, Madeleine Hopkins, Annalee Johnson, Ann Jones, Donald Jurney, Susan Kneeland, Susan Luca, Michael Milczarek, Cheryl Miller, Candace Mitchell, Skip Motes, Madalene Murphy, Timothy Neil, Paul Noel, Bethany Peck, Christine Riccardi, Susan Spellman, David Stone, Amy Vander Els, Mary Ann Varoski and Mary Webber.

The artists participating in the second show are: Thom Adorney, Julie Airoldi, Kale Baker, Jennifer Boisvert, Paul Bonneau, Jeffrey Briggs, Lindley Briggs, Sue Charles, Keith Demanche, Sara Demrow Dent, Mike Dorsey, Cheryl Dyment, Wolfgang Ertl, Karen Fitzgerald, Margie Florini, Diane Francis, Ann Gillespie, Al Hiltz, Cindy Journey, Sandra Kavanaugh, Barbara Kremer, Judith Menihane Larmay, Peggy Luderer, Janet MacLeod, Carmela Martin, Jay McCarthy, Elaine McMichael, Maria Nemchuk, Brent Rotsko, Patricia Schappler, Hillary Scott, Debbie Shirley, Rosalie Sidoti, Linda Stefanidakis, Janet Sutherland,and Robin Thornhill.

NAA gallery hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 11 to 5 p.m., and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. For more information, contact the association at 978-465-8769 or visit www.newburyportart.org.

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