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Virginia MOCA Boardwalk Art Show Best-In-ShowAwarded to Salem High School Art Teacher

Words and Images courtesy of Virginia MOCA.

The Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art (Virginia MOCA) awarded the best-in-show prize for the 65th presentation of the Virginia MOCA Boardwalk Art Show to Melissa Schappell for her multi-media work Fishing for a Wishing. Schappell is an art teacher at the Salem High School Visual and Performing Arts Academy.

“Anytime you have an opportunity to get recognized for your hard work and creative practice, it is an honor, but this Best in Show Award was special to me for more reasons than that,” said Schappell. “As a local artist, I have a love and appreciation for Virginia MOCA that runs deep. From having my first major solo exhibition in the Community Gallery, to the artist community and friends I have been able to gather, to the field trips I have taken my students on, it has a special place in my heart. I feel a great sense of pride and gratitude for the staff who work so hard to bring amazing contemporary art and programming to this area.”

With the honor came a $5,000 cash prize generously donated by Virginia MOCA supporter Joan Brock. Judges for the show were Seth Feman, the deputy director for art & interpretation and curator of photography at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, VA, and Leslie Mounaime, curator of exhibitions at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, VA. In addition to choosing best-in-show, Feman and Mounaime awarded the Virginia Finest Award in memory of local artist and frequent Boardwalk Art Show participant Anne Virga to Portsmouth artist Jean Benvenuto for In Reply. Other top awards included the Thomas A. Felton, Jr. Award of Distinction in Fine Art, which went to Richard Wilson for Jiyah and the Top Artist Under 40 award won by Virginia-based artist Jamela Breland for Miss Debbie. A complete list of awards and winners is below.

At the awards event Saturday evening, Virginia MOCA Director & CEO Gary Ryan announced that the Virginia MOCA Boardwalk Art Show will be held in October moving forward. “COVID demonstrated in no uncertain terms that financial stability is critical. Holding the art show in the fall at the mid-point of the museum fiscal year provides this,” said Ryan. “We also are committed to reducing the costs artists incur to participate. By shortening the show to three days and shifting it to the fall, we estimate costs to participate have fallen by 20%. And, we are continuing to look for ways to further reduce artist costs moving forward," continued Ryan.

“Furthermore, after listening to the artists, we believe those who visited the art show this past weekend were there for the art and not just walking up from the beach.”

“It’s been my best year,” said Richmond-based painter Daniel K Robbins. “It feels like there are more collectors here, really interested in the work. I’m excited to have it in October going forward.”

“I firmly believe hosting the Virginia MOCA Boardwalk Art Show in the fall is a win, win for everyone,” concluded Ryan.


BEST IN SHOW AWARD Melissa Schappell Fishing for a Wishing




JUDGE'S CHOICE AWARD (2) Shanti Yard Mappa Burl Vase with Silver Inlay and Quartz top Micah Mullen Car Wreck

BEST GLASS ART SCULPTURE Heather New Mermaid Sculpture


AWARD OF MERIT (2) Nickolai Walko Perch Joyce Slate Micro Mosaic – Peace Dove SAND DOLLAR AWARD (8) Ashley Sauder Miller Floral No. 117/118 Greg Thomas-Moore 14 Drawer Cabinet – Mappa Burl, African Mahogany Jason McLeod Time Traveler Shamanic Mask Blake Gore Old Mill Amy and Jeff Dallas As Above, So Below Raydel Blanco Valdes Ire Susu Vladimir Vitovsky Concert/Bravo Jeffrey Diener Pungo Moon


Virginia MOCA is an ever-changing museum where neighbors, strangers, students, families, communities, and cultures are invited to explore our shared humanity, through locally relevant and nationally resonant, contemporary art that’s exceptional—in all of its timeliness, restlessness, and beauty.

Additional photos, videos, and interviews available upon request by contacting Brad Tuggle, Director of Audience Development at or 757.453.5596.


Melissa Schappell was raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia and attended Kutztown University of Pennsylvania where she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a concentration in Drawing and a Bachelor of Science in Art Education. Drawing as a concentration gave her flexibility to work with a variety of media and formats, which suited her natural inclination to work with wet and dry media in non-traditional ways. After graduating in 2012, she received an offer to teach at the Visual and Performing Arts Academy of Salem High School in Virginia Beach, Virginia where she worked with gifted art students for five years while continuing to create and exhibit her personal work. She recently received her Master of Fine Arts Degree from Radford University where she also served as professor of record for Art Appreciation courses. Her work explores the spaces between art, psychology, and the semiotics of metaphor, storytelling, and symbolism. The pieces have been shown at a variety of established academic institutions, museums, fine art galleries, and art centers, with recent solo exhibitions at Stravitz Sculpture and Fine Art Galleries and the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art Community Gallery. She has also been awarded in juried exhibitions and festivals, including a Best of Show at d’Art Center's National Juried Exhibition, an Award of Excellence in the Virginia Artist Juried Exhibition at Charles H. Taylor Visual Arts Center, the Museum Purchase Award Winner at Radford University Art Museum’s Juried Student Art Exhibition, and the Virginia Finest award at Virginia MOCA’S 2019 Boardwalk Art Show.


Quote from Benvenuto on Boardwalk Art Show (BWAS) 2021: “I have a 40-year relationship with the Boardwalk Art Show, beginning with the Alice Granberry Award for painting, which was given at the Dome in 1981! Undeniably, BWAS has been an integral part of my professional goal setting as an artist. To be recognized among one’s peers is tremendously affirming and means a great deal to me—for that I am most grateful.”

Jean Benvenuto's artistic process has been informed by so much. However, she counts these artists among the most influential: Charles Sibley of Old Dominion University and the painters that she has admired—Margaret Bowland, Richard Diebenkorn, and John Singer Sargent—to name a few. She was trained in oils but has used acrylics on canvas and linen for the past 40 years. She received both a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting in 1980 and a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education in 1989 from Old Dominion University. A recently retired high school art teacher, she was formerly associated with the City of Portsmouth, Virginia’s Center for Excellence in the Visual and Performing Arts. As a professional artist, Benvenuto has regularly exhibited work in the Hampton Roads region and beyond. Some notable shows include TIME, Chrysler Museum (Norfolk, Virginia), The Ignition Show, Spark Gallery (Brooklyn, NYC), Bella Leeor Group Show, Spark Gallery (Brooklyn, NYC), One Woman Show, This Century Gallery (Williamsburg, VA), New Waves Juried Exhibition, Virginia MOCA (Virginia Beach, Virginia), One Woman Show, Riverview Gallery, (Portsmouth, Virginia), Irene Leach Memorial Juried Exhibition, The Chrysler Museum (Norfolk, Virginia), and in 2016, Degrees of Separation Exhibition, Portsmouth Art and Cultural Center (Portsmouth, Virginia). In 2017, the painting In Reply was juried into the National Art Education Association headquarters exhibition and was a part of New Waves 2018 at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art in Virginia Beach. She designed and created the concept for The Museum Tree installation in 2020 for the Hermitage Museum exhibition Unknown Outcome 2100, and won Best in Show in Persistence II, d'Art Center (Norfolk, Virginia). Most recently, Benvenuto received the Virginia Finest Award for the body of work Happily Ever After at the Virginia Beach Boardwalk Art Show, hosted by the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art (Virginia Beach, Virginia) and has exhibited the installation Tell Her Story at Old Dominion University's Gordon Gallery (Norfolk, Virginia).


Richard Wilson is a visual artist who uses reality and creativity to produce images that reflect the beauty in the world around him. Like most gifted artists, Richard’s talent developed at an early age. His unique abilities were first recognized by family, friends, and classmates. By age 8, Wilson was skillfully crafting images of trucks, action figures and cartoon characters for his classmates in his hometown of Robersonville, NC. Under the mentorship and influence of his father, he continued to develop his artistic skills. After graduating from SouthWest Edgecombe High School in Pinetops NC, he attended Barton College to pursue his dream. There he studied Communications Art and began investing in his future as an artist. He later received a degree in Advertising & Graphic Design from Pitt Community College, and after graduating he served as an instructor in the same art department in which his own dream was cultivated.

Richard Wilson’s resume resembles that of an older accomplished artist. Given his masterful execution and the universality of his subject matter, Richard’s work is both acclaimed by professional artists and has strong popular appeal. His narrative paintings frequently feature his own family and in particular his children in those special moments that only children have while growing up. Wilson’s artistic strength is his capacity to select those moments that transcend the personal and can reach a broader audience. Some paintings are nostalgic, some express those human connections that are only found within the family, and some express the challenge; in all of his paintings there is warmth and discretion. The artist does many commission portraits as well and has that uncanny capacity to extract personality and depth from his subjects faithfully represented in his realistic style.

Wilson has produced an impressive twenty-year career as a productive professional artist, freelance and corporate graphic designer, and teacher at Pitt Community College. He has artworks in numerous collections, public and private, but is most proud of his official portrait of George Henry White, the last former slave to serve in Congress, and the fact that Wilson is the first African American artist to have a portrait publicly displayed in a North Carolina courthouse. In November 2018 Wilson was featured in the Wall Street Journal and recognized by writer, Daniel Grant as “one of the most successful artist that you’re likely to meet”. Wilson was recently commissioned by the University of Georgia to paint the portrait of Mary Frances Early, the first African American to graduate from the University. He was selected by Blue Moon Brewing Company as one the 20 Up and Coming Artist in the United States to design a Limited-Edition label for their 20th Anniversary Blue Moon Artist Series bottles. Wilson paintings were featured on the big screen in the fall of 2016. Five of his works were purchased for the movie “Barbershop – The Next Cut”, featuring actors, Ice Cube, Cedric the Entertainer, Common & rapper Nicki Minaj. He was featured on the cover of Sunshine Artist magazine in March of 2013 which is a popular national art magazine that highlights the top art events in the country. In November of 2013, Art Collectors Magazine highlighted Wilson’ s studio and work as a destination to see in the Carolinas and in December of 2013 his figurative work was also highlighted in Art Collectors magazine. During his career Wilson has received numerous local, national and international awards; in 2018 he received the top prize in winning the First Prize, Pastel Journal Founder’s Award in memory of Maggie Price in the 20th Annual Pastel 100 Competition and was featured in the April 2019 issue of the Pastel Journal, America’s leading magazine devoted to pastel artists. In 2002 he received the prestigious National Arts Club Award. Amongst his many shows, competitions, and accolades, in 2005 he also won First Place in “The Best of North Carolina” Juried Publication and in 2006 Pastel Society of New Mexico Award at the Pastel Society of America 34th Annual Art Exhibit, National Arts Club, NYC. In 2011, the International Tennis Hall of Fame acquired one of Wilson’s “Shadow Series” painting, titled “In His Shadow” depicting a young boy inspired by Arthur Ashe, for their permanent collection. Wilson’s work is being collected by collectors all over the world. Some of his notable collectors are Legendary Hall of Fame baseball player Henry Hank Aaron, Tina Knowles – Designer & mother of singer Beyonce’ Knowles, Gladys Knight, Tom Joyner, Ed Gordon, Victoria Rowell, Bev Smith, Anne & Clifton Davis, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Judge James Wynn and many more. His work can be viewed in books and museums, as well as private and public collections

Let yourself be drawn into the paintings of Richard Wilson and find comfort in the familiarity of the images. You will find that his work journeys deep into the souls of his subjects.


Jamela Breland is dynamically embedded in preserving her character that she keeps what is good for her heart and mind. What appear to be her flaws has left her in silence, though my talents dominate my shyness, and who she is becomes uncovered. Her talents give her recognition, allowing her to be aware of her confidence, and slowly her self-esteem starts to build. In her spare time, Breland is a freelance artist who provides graphic design services, drawings, paintings, creative clay sculptures, handmade jewelry, and phone case designs. She is always hard at work, showing the best of her creative abilities and sense of style that is very unpredictable.

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