Student art show draws in viewers

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By Becky Ebben, Staff Writer

The 25th anniversary of anything is usually met by a good amount of fanfare, but the Ames School of Art’s 25th Annual Juried Student Exhibition was a surprisingly low-key event.

On Tuesday, Feb. 7, a group of students, professors, and community members gathered in the Merwin and Wakeley Galleries to view works of art created by Illinois Wesleyan University students and observe the awards ceremony.

Like most IWU gallery openings, a small table of food and punch was supplied by Sodexo’s catering department. Other than that though, there were no obvious signs that this gallery opening was celebrating anything out of the ordinary.

But the lack of extravagant decoration in the galleries was made up for with the quantity and quality of the art present. The walls of both gallery rooms were covered with almost 100 pieces created by students and judged by Claire Hedden, curator at the McLean County Arts Center and the guest juror at this year’s show.

“Claire did a wonderful job in selecting works,” said professor of art Miles Bair, director of IWU’s School of Art. And, as the size of the exhibition shows, it couldn’t have been an easy task.

According to Riley Blindt, president of IWU’s chapter of the art honors fraternity Kappa Pi, Kappa Pi had only three members two years ago, and art students were an almost invisible minority at IWU. But in recent years, the number of art majors has spiked, bringing Kappa Pi to an impressive 24 members and allowing for a large collection of art in the student show.

“It’s really exciting that so many pieces made it in,” Blindt said. “It’s nice to see we have so many talented students.”

President Wilson, who attends the exhibition every year and presents an award to his and his wife’s favorite piece, agrees that the 25th anniversary of the student exhibit was something special.

“This has been an outstanding year for the student show,” Wilson said. “The number of pieces present and the variety of the works is fantastic. We had a very hard time [choosing the recipient of our award] because of the amount of variety.”

In the end, Mr. and Mrs. Wilson gave their award to Shanshan Zhao’s series of paintings titled “1, 10, 100,” which depict both U.S. and Chinese currency in a variety of unusual and thought-provoking ways.

Be it paintings, digital graphic work, glass sculptures, drawings or prints, the work currently on display at the Ames School of Art is definitely worth a trip to the art building to see. “This is one of the best shows in recent years, because of both quality and quantity,” Bair said. “There is consistent high quality in all of the medias.”

This fantastic show continues to add to the excitement (already high due to the new glass sculpture and rotunda) experienced by the art department this year. “I’m hoping that the new addition will bring in more people to see the art,” Wilson said.

While the glass sculpture isn’t going anywhere, the student show will only be open until Thursday, Feb. 23. The galleries are open Monday through Friday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.