The annual Art Prize has come to bring art to campus. This year’s theme is “May you Live in Interesting Times.”
The annual Art Prize reflects what students believe are the ideas or concerns of the theme. The students bring these ideas and concerns to life through art.
“This theme was ‘borrowed’ from the 2019 Venice Biennale,” said Jilian Dickson, visiting assistant professor in drawing and painting. “We encountered such powerful work, I wanted to piggyback off that momentum. In previous years, the theme was a single word, [like] ‘electric tape’, ‘recycle’, ‘reuse’.”
With this reflection surrounding the Art Prize theme, students have the freedom to explore through different mediums. This can range from acrylics to woodwork. Even though Art Prize has a theme to be followed, you can find ways to showcase everyday experiences and controversial issues.
“Students used this opportunity to examine the ‘interesting’ circumstances we find ourselves in. There is a piece in reaction to Roe V. Wade. There is another piece…that examines accessibility on campus,” said Dickson.
One of the small groups participating in this year’s competition has created an artwork called “Out of Reach.” The team members are Willis Heiney (‘23), Starr Koon (‘23), Emily Diener (‘23) and Lauryn Bishop (‘23). They have created a twelve-foot-high staircase sculpture to explore ideas about disability, inaccessibility and the struggles students face due to inequalities on campus.
“We chose stairs because they are commonly overlooked as a functioning passageway and rarely thought of as a blockage,” said Koon.
It is not only the ideas explored in a creative way. The artworks are also intentionally positioned on campus where they invoke their message best.
“…We intentionally placed it at the center of campus to resonate with the message. We wanted our staircase to obstruct the pathway and allow viewers to feel the same disruption and blockage that students with disability face,” said Koon. “We also made the base of the platform to start at five feet tall to further highlight the daunting and overwhelming feelings of struggling students and students with disabilities.”
A key aspect of Art Prize that is often overlooked is the learning experience and the collaborations being done with other artists on campus, especially when some of the participants are not art majors.
Art prize is open to all students from various disciplines. This year, however, only students that are art majors, minors or are participating in an art class have taking an interest. The Art Prize can also be done as a group or individually.
In the “Out of Reach” group, “everyone came together, communicated and took on separate roles to complete our piece,” said Koon. “Whether it was staining the wood, [cutting] and sanding, or solving problems during assembly, I’m extremely impressed with our teamwork.”
Students who are not related to the art discipline are welcomed to participate and expend the knowledge from their own disciplines.
“We’ve had students from a variety of disciplines participate,” said Dickson.
While this new system greatly enhances Alma’s liberal arts education, this system offers less flexibility because of the structured requirements. It has been expressed that this is something that will continually be worked on.