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Art Spirit


Patron of Pastels

For over twenty five years, Art Spirit Foundation has been leading advocacy for the medium of pastels through awards and patronage of pastel artists

Art Spirit Foundation was conceived and created by Dianne B. Bernhard to promote the arts, illustrate how art enhances the lives of all people, and provide insight into art as a life-changing force. Art Spirit reminds us of the importance art plays in the evolution of humanity through the support and nurturing of accomplished living artists. It aspires to elevate society’s perspective of art and transform the way artists view themselves by presenting not only their work, but the artists’ character as well. The mission of Art Spirit is to enrich lives through art.

"The development of the art spirit in all walks of life is the development of individual judgement and taste, the love of work for the sake of doing things well and the tendency toward simplicity and order"

Robert Henri

Dianne B. Bernhard

Executive Director

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Dianne B. Bernhard lives art in the tradition of Robert Henri, an American painter with a philosophy that art can be a powerful voice for impacting anything. Art is life, and life is art: they can be one in the same providing a joyous experience of the universe. Dianne is an accomplished painter, teacher, arts advocate and devoted patron. Her background as an art educator led her to develop deep insights into the needs of artists and inspired her to establish the Art Spirit Foundation, an institution committed to the work of living artists.  Through Art Spirit’s programs, monetary awards, medals, publishing, and films she continues to advocate the arts, nurture the renaissance of the pastel medium, as well as create awareness that the rewards of great art should be attained during the life of the artist.


Dianne recently served as President of The National Arts Club, and it's Director of Fine Arts.  She currently serves as the First Vice President of The Pastel Society of America.


Dianne received formal training in art history and business at University of Houston and Yale University, in addition to Interior Design from NYSID.  She currently resides in Connecticut and New York, where she continues her commitment to promote the arts and create platforms for art and artists of all mediums. 

About Anchor

The use of pastel dates back as far as 15,000 B.C. as evidenced by cave murals found in France and Spain. However, it was not until 18th Century Europe that pastel became a respected art medium.

Pastels, most often formed in sticks, consist of powdered pigment that has been mixed with a binder and allowed to dry. Pastel is the most durable of media. Provided that it is not touched or physically disturbed, it will never crack, yellow, darken, or fade. The beauty and magical quality inherent in pastel art is a result of the powdery surface's unique ability to refract light. The result is an intensity of color like no other medium.

Mary Cassatt Mother and Child

Rosalba Carreira is credited with starting the pastel movement in Europe in the late 1600s. She was followed by such well-known artists as La Tour, Millet, Manet, Degas, Renoi and Lautrec. Gaugin, Vuillard, Klee, and de Kooning were other artists who experimented with pastel effects.

The movement crossed the Atlantic around the late 1700s and became an important part of American art in the latter part of the 19th Century. Well-known American Pastelists include Cassatt, Whistler, Blum, Hassam, Henri, O'Keefe and Pollock. But the evolution has not been smooth because of misconceptions around the conservation and longevity of the medium. For hundreds of years, pastels have fired artists' imaginations and then been set aside for the more traditional oil and watercolor. Today that is changing as more museums recognize contemporary pastel artists and add master works of pastel to their collections.

Pablo Picasso Le Coq

The "true" American Pastel Renaissance began in 1972, when Flora Giffuni established a unique fine art school that taught only pastel, created an annual exhibition "For Pastels Only" and established the Pastel Society of America. Since then, the growth of interest in this art form has been remarkable. Today there are pastel societies throughout the world and artists and art lovers have reaffirmed their passion for this tantalizing medium of color and light.


Art Spirit Executive Director, Dianne Bernhard's love for pastel is not only apparent as an artist, but as a collector and advocate, "the result of Flora Giffuni's devotion is that pastels are now on equal status with all other media." As artists and their audiences rediscover the beauty and complexity of pastel, Art Spirit Foundation programs will be there to advance, support, promote, and document this major 21st Century art movement.


Awards for Excellence in Pastels since 1998


Dianne Bernhard knows the importance that competitions play in developing a successful career. These juried exhibitions allow the best artists to show their work for the prospect of recognition and monetary reward. She had entered many of these contests throughout her own career, but as her work with the pastel movement continued as a priority she discovered that none of the major art competitions in America had a category fully dedicated to pastel. Even though there were many artists who were working almost exclusively in the medium.


Knowing that her commitment to the renaissance of the medium would never have an impact if she didn’t do something to transform the way the art world perceived pastel, she contacted many of the most reputable organizations that juried such competitions and simply asked, "Why is there no category for pastel?"


She learned that often pastel was relegated to a subcategory as if it were inferior to oil or watercolor. She quickly went to work to change this misconception and created a category just for pastels matching the amounts awarded to selected artists in the more traditionally accepted arenas of painting.


Today, through monetary awards in national and international competitions, she hopes young artists will take advantage of these opportunities to develop outstanding professional credentials to forward their careers


In the News

In the news anchor


August 01, 2018

Pastelagram honors Dianne B. Bernhard and The Art Spirit Foundation for her patronage, inspiration and commitment to support living pastel artists

VENU Magazine

June 01, 2017

Dianne Bernhard transforming lives through art in Venu Magazine

The New York Times

March 15, 2015

Bespoke Perfume

FLATT Magazine

August 15, 2012

Changing of the Guard

American Artist

December 15, 2010

Dream Studios, Practical Function

Victoria Magazine

December 01, 2002

Dianne Bernhard's Angels

The Pastel Journal

January 01, 2001

Feature Article on Herman Margulies

The Pastel Journal

March 01, 2001

Artist, Teacher, Arts Advocate and Arts Patron

American Artist

February 01, 1996

Finding Artistic Solutions

The Artist Magazine

April 01, 1987

Impressionistic Landscapes That Glow

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