Pastel Society of America Workshop Experience


A candid photo on the last day of my PSA workshop taken by Master Artist and PSA Board of Governors member, Jimmy Wright.

The Pastel Society of America (PSA) is the mother of all pastel societies in the United States. Formed in 1972 by Flora B. Giffuni (1919-2009), it can be credited to a large degree with the current popularity of pastel as a medium. Its offices and studio classroom are housed in the historic National Arts Club, a Victorian mansion that was once the home of Governor Tilden in the exclusive Gramercy Park district of New York City. Every year they host a national exhibition for pastels only in the main gallery of the National Arts Club. Being accepted into this prestigious exhibition is quite an achievement and something pastelists work hard for every year. Earning the right to be a signature member of the Pastel Society of America allows artists to use the initials PSA after their name and is often prominently displayed on the front of paintings. These initials, more than any other, designate credibility. Members that win three cumulative awards are named PSA Master Pastelists. Each year one noted artist is elected into the PSA’s Hall of Fame.

One of Flora’s major wishes was to facilitate continuing education about pastel. This led to the opening of the PSA School in 1989, later renamed the Flora B. Giffuni Atelier for Pastels, at the National Arts Club and a scholarship program in Flora’s name.

I was honored and humbled this year to be the PSA’s 2010 Hall of Fame honoree. In conjunction with the exhibition and immediately following the reception weekend, a three-day workshop was hosted in the Giffuni Atelier. It was such a pleasure to have the opportunity to work with the diverse group of students in such a historic setting. One can only imagine the famous artists that had walked the halls and what artistic discussions occurred. Besides the regular class schedule that operates out of the Atelier, the PSA is offering a series of one-day workshops and three-day workshops throughout the year. For a schedule, check the PSA website or request a brochure from Cindy, the PSA office manager (a delight to work with): (tel) 212-533-6931 or (email)

No organization survives without the hard work of volunteers that devote time and effort to its success. The Pastel Society of America is no different. Loved and nurtured by the current president Rae Smith and the dedicated board of governors, the PSA continues to grow and serve as a benchmark for other pastel societies. We owe them a great debt of gratitude. I personally encourage everyone that loves pastel to visit the society’s website and study all the diverse offering the society has to offer. Become involved and experience one of their class/workshop offerings. Be sure to save your best works for entry into their annual exhibition. If fortunate enough to be selected, you will see one of your works hanging in the hallowed halls of the National Arts Club, a dream come true for any artist.


Did you know that the instruction Richard McKinley has shared in the Pastel Pointers blog and magazine columns has been collected into a book? The book by the same name is available now for pre-orders and will be ready for shipping in late November. Click here to check it out in the new, expanded NorthLight Shop.

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3 thoughts on “Pastel Society of America Workshop Experience

  1. Willo Balfrey

    Kudos Richard: So well deserved and to feel through you the history of the event and the National Arts Club – being in the hallowed halls and walking in the previous artists steps makes one feel the emotion of where you were. Thank you for sharing. Willo