BY CADEN WILSON
Art Prize 2018 is underway on campus with 11 exhibits. These displays are placed throughout North Campus and have already become a familiar sight for many students and faculty. Although each exhibit is unique in design and creation, they all follow the same theme – Black and White.
Themes are chosen based on student interest, according to professor Jillian Dickson, organizer of Art Prize. Dickson also provides advice and guidance for artists as they design, create, and display their projects.
“Last year the theme Recycled was chosen due to student interest in and conversations of the health of our planet. This year Black and White was chosen in reaction to our polarizing political climate,” said Dickson.
“Last year the recycle theme was too specific and everyone took it at face value, not really delving into what it could have been,” said Anissa Keeler (‘19), the artist behind “Tied Up.” “However, I feel like the black and white theme had a fair amount of ambiguity that forced us to think about the ideas and messages we really wanted to convey. I feel like this year there was so much more room for the artists to insert their own voices and passions into their works, which benefited art prize in my opinion.”
Each year’s Art Prize theme is announced during winter semester, allowing the artists lots of time to come up with their projects and gather supplies. Although much of this work occurs over the summer, some artists plan nearly a year in advance.
“I sat on the idea and let it evolve to what ended up being the final product over a period of about 6 months before I began painting,” said Calum Clow (‘20), the creator of “Spilled Milk.”
Although Art Prize is a contest, the reward for many participants has nothing to do with who wins. It presents an opportunity to see student work outside of a classroom environment where creativity and ingenuity are key.
“I enjoy the creative process, which I guess is the whole part. I like brainstorming about possible projects that fit with the theme and then getting excited when we think of a good one,” said Spencer Wehner (‘20), who worked with Ivy VanPoppelen (‘20) and Paige Shaw (‘20) to construct “Tunnel Through.”
“I love making art by myself or with my friends and art prize allows for that in a fun way. It also allows for other students who may enjoy art but don’t make much of it to enjoy it around campus,” said Wehner. “Anyone who wants to make something can, and it’s super fun and rewarding to see your work displayed on campus.”
For the artists, there is a sense of community and appreciation for the talents others bring to the table. “I love how art prize stimulates creativity. It’s inspiring to see the different creative avenues my peers have taken with the theme. It also presents an opportunity to explore unorthodox, innovative ways of installing artwork,” said Clow.
Keeler believes the lack of a traditional gallery arrangement improves the Art Prize experience. Instead of assembling all exhibits in one place, artists select a location on campus to house their projects.
“I like art that is meant to be a whole experience, something you can walk into and feel overwhelmed by. I like art that everyone can see, not just those willing to wonder around a gallery. I feel like the Alma Art Prize project allows for that kind of creativity, it allows art students to stretch their limits beyond white walls,” said Keeler.
Art Prize serves to function as a demonstration of what art can be outside on an orthodox setting, a demonstration of the results of thinking outside of the box, according to Dickson. “I hope that art students start thinking about art that functions outside of the classroom or a gallery. Having to collaborate with others, procuring a location, site specificity and art within an environment all have specific challenges, which are great learning tools.”