Loyola’s Ralph Arnold Gallery (1131 W. Sheridan Road) is set to kick off its annual Student Art Competition Feb. 1. The show is open and free to all Loyola students and strictly features original works made within the last year. Acceptable pieces include drawings, paintings, photographs, two- and three-dimensional designs, ceramics and sculpture, among others. The top three winners are awarded cash prizes of $250, $200 and $150, respectively.
Betsy Odom, a lecturer of Loyola’s Fine Arts Department, is in charge of running the upcoming exhibit, along with fellow fine arts lecturer Rafael Vera.
Odom said the Student Art Competition has taken place at Loyola for more than 25 years as a result of steady interest expressed by the student body.
“Each year, we reach out to all Loyolans, even those outside of the art department,” Odom said in an email to The PHOENIX. “The competition showcases a variety of creative talents found around campus. We always find that the show is vibrant and energetic with an interesting balance of disciplines. This year the show features nice cross-sections of the student body.”
This year, Odom said the competition received approximately 60 submissions, but they could only accept 25. A professional artist from Chicago acts as a juror every year to help narrow down the submissions, according to Odom.
“Each year the competition is juried by a different art world professional who is familiar with a breadth of approaches to art and design,” Odom said. “This year’s juror, Lisa Boumstein-Smalley, chose work that uses art-making as a way of processing the world around us and our respective places within it.”
Boumstein-Smalley explores similar themes in her own work, which has been featured around the country in cities such as San Francisco, New York City, Philadelphia and Chicago.
“I’m fascinated by natural phenomena, things that occur spontaneously that we can’t fully explain or grasp, these things that ground us in nature or are reminders that we too as humans are connected to the natural world,” Boumstein-Smalley said. “I make drawings typically using ink, graphite or watercolors … on marble, stone, or paper. I feel that drawing is an elemental way of communicating complicated concepts. With this in mind I prefer to use elemental materials — meaning of nature or basic.”
Boumstein-Smalley became involved with the Student Art Competition through Vera, whom she went to graduate school with. Vera said her resume speaks for itself.
“She is a visual artist who works in the marketing world, marrying both visual arts and design,” Vera said. “Therefore, she is an expert in everything we teach in [Loyola’s] Fine Arts Department.”
When it comes to criteria for judging students’ pieces, Boumstein-Smalley said she evaluated each one individually based on the merit of its work.
“I think the main thing we are all looking to achieve as artists to develop our own voices and vocabulary as makers,” Boumstein-Smalley said. “I certainly don’t think or anticipate that students would be this evolved, rather what I am looking for is rigor and visual exploration to communicate content.”
Kavya Tiwari, a senior studio art major at Loyola, is participating in the competition. Her drawing, “Detail, Deposition,” is a unique spin on a self-portrait, and she sees the competition as a good way to meet student artists at Loyola.
“It’s really laid-back and very casual, so it’s not intimidating at all,” Tiwari said. “The whole art department comes together to look at some [artwork], and it’s very social.”
With an array of work showing elements of self-discovery and generating creative connections for the viewer to interpret, Odom believes, Loyola’s 2018 Student Art Competition should be on every student’s radar.
“Students will be surprised by the technical and conceptual quality of the work being made at Loyola,” Odom said. “This year’s competition shows work that inspires, work that provokes and work that celebrates visual culture.”
The opening reception for the competition will take place from 5-7 p.m. Feb. 1 and will include refreshments for guests. Students can visit the Ralph Arnold Gallery until Feb. 16 to see their fellow students’ artwork.