Galleries display student work

Ariana Beedie

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Matt Perez never thought he would place first in an art exhibition. The junior studio art major won Best of Show, along with two other major awards, at the 43rd Annual Juried Student Art Exhibition on April 7.

“I’m happy to be where I’m at right now,” Perez said.

Perez entered four pieces of art into the exhibition and won awards on two: a five-foot-tall “Yim Yeti,” which earned him Best of Show and the Sculpture Merit Award; and a piece titled “The Suspended Thoughts of Mr. Dwayne Hoover,” which won the Junior Scholarship Award.

“It feels like the juror was having a good day, and liked mine,” Perez said. “It’s kind of crazy.”

The former journalism major has always wanted to be an artist.

“Art was one of my earliest memories,” Perez said. “My uncle bought me a sketchbook, and I filled it up.”

Upon transition to the Art Department, Perez found his hidden talent – weaving chicken wire. From that point, he hasn’t looked back.

“The USI art community is super supportive,” Perez said. “They don’t think you’re crazy for wanting to build a five-foot-tall Yeti.”

With the talent USI has, he said it would be cool to make USI’s Art Department nationally known.

“You have to push yourself and take advantage of the circumstances,” Perez said.

The Juried Student Art Exhibition is a chance for art students to submit works from the current school year. Each student can enter up to four pieces for judging. Student works are displayed in the McCutchan Art Center and Pace Galleries in the basement of the Liberal Arts Center.

The exhibition is open to current USI students. An independent juror is invited to evaluate each student’s work for prize eligibility.

Prizes amount to $7,240.

“We like to have a fresh eye come in and choose what they think is the best,” art professor Katie Waters said.

It’s hard to be objective with students the faculty work with and love, said the McCutchan Art Center and Pace Galleries director.

“The juror really loved Matt’s piece,” Waters said. “It’s very exciting when people connect with your work.

Everyone should see the show – they will be surprised at the creativity, she said.

The exhibition is open to the public until May 5.

“It’s really cool, getting my students to enter,” said Rob Millard-Mendez, associate art professor.

Millard-Mendez helped arrange for the juror to examine the artwork.

“I’ve done work for over 300 competitive exhibitions,” Millard-Mendez said. “Very rarely are the     prizes over $7,000.”

The process of submitting art pieces and receiving the award can be intense, Millard-Mendez said.

The art exhibition was a first for many new artists, such as Matthew Cooper. The sophomore studio art major submitted his first piece, titled “Focus,” created in Drawing I.

“I was nervous entering since it’s my first year here,” Cooper said. “Basically I drew myself holding a camera.”

His art professors persuaded Cooper to submit his work.

“I like the art community,” Cooper said. “They enhance creativity on what to do and what not to do.”

They help students see something different, he said.

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