Each year a collection of artwork is submitted to the U.S. Coast Guard Art Program where a panel of judges selects a recipient for the George Gray Award for Artistic Excellence – in other words, they choose a “best in show.” This year’s award goes to Leendert van der Pool for his oil painting titled “Partnership.”
“Partnership” is a vibrantly colored moment in time – a figurative scene of the inner workings onboard the 225-foot oceangoing buoy tender, Coast Guard Cutter SPAR, homeported out of Kodiak, Alaska. The crew of SPAR, an acronym for the Coast Guard’s motto “Semper Paratus – Always Ready,” is seen conducting a training exercise with a Canadian coast guard ship, Sir Wilfred Laurier. The view, a vantage point from the Canadian coast guard ship, is a realistic representation overlooking the SPAR’s worn decks that show a graceful maturation after 17 years of service. Also, incredible detailing captures the moment but the scene is not without a touch of humanism in the depiction of a crew member wearing his hard hat backwards.
Van der Pool, a former sailor for the Dutch merchant navy, worked on various ships including coasters, freighters and salvage ships for 14 years. His experiences in the maritime industry have given him an advantage in painting maritime subjects. While van der Pool has never served in the Coast Guard, he has submitted six paintings to the Coast Guard Art Program within the last 10 years and intends to continue to do so in years to come.
“I am honored to have been selected for the George Gray Award,” said van der Pool. “I would [also] like to mention that I was awarded a knighthood by the Dutch government in 2010 for my cultural contributions as an artist.”
Van der Pool’s submission was one of 28 works submitted by 23 artists of the Coast Guard Art Program. COGAP’s corps of volunteer artists is mostly comprised of professional artists as well as several veteran and active service members. All artwork submitted illustrates the myriad missions including rescue operations from last year’s hurricane season, Coast Guard patrols in treacherous waters, wildlife rescues and training operations.
While van der Pool was in Paris at the time of the ceremony on July 12, 2018, the Coast Guard Art Program presented the George Gray Award to him in absentia at the Salmagundi Club in New York City. Upon receiving his plaque, van der Pool said he intends to display it prominently.
“Art speaks directly to the soul,” said Rear Adm. Melissa Bert, the director of Coast Guard Governmental and Public Affairs. “In their remarkable works, our members have captured in a way words cannot the vital contribution the Coast Guard makes to the nation and its people. At the same time, it lets our service members know that what they do every day merits being chronicled in works of art because what they do is nothing short of art.”
All of the Coast Guard artwork submitted in this year’s program are on display at Federal Hall National Memorial in New York City’s Lower Manhattan through Sept. 27, 2018.