The Al Young Juried Art Show first began back in 1968, when then-student Al Young ‘69 noticed the need for an exhibit which broadly surveyed all levels of student art produced in art classes. Since then, the awards have been supported with an annual gift from his sister, Ann Young. There are a number of other awards made possible thanks to donations from Alumni and Blick Art Materials. Second place finishers received gift certificates from Blick’s with another faculty award given to an Art History student for most exceptional paper of the year.
Students often don’t get the opportunity to participate in juried art shows, hearing most of their feedback directly from their teachers and peers. Chair of the Art Department Mark Holmes, who is responsible for organizing the event, explained the importance of having an outside pair of eyes critiquing students work.
“The virtue of bringing the juror, someone from the outside, they don’t know anything about the students. Seeing students work can be influenced by our relationship with them. We want someone who can see their work outside that context,” Holmes said.
This year’s juror, Elizabeth Gourlay, hails from Connecticut and has had her work exhibited throughout the United States as well as internationally. With only three awards for each medium, Gourlay was faced with the difficult task of choosing from the dozens of pieces submitted in each category. According to Gourlay, being solely responsible for judging every piece was not an easy task.
“I just try to be as fair as possible,” said Gourlay, “but in this case it was extremely difficult because I wanted more prizes for everyone. It was agonizing.”
Getting all the work up and ready for Gourlay was done by volunteer post-baccalaureates Carmen Ribaudo ‘16 and Kelly Clare ‘16. Ribaudo and Clare spent all week making sure the works could be appreciated for all to see, even working on Flunk Day. Although they were unable to participate directly in the show by submitting their own work, they are thankful for the opportunity to give back.
“Unfortunately we are unable to win any prizes because we graduated, but that’s okay. We had our chance in past years and this is us paying it forward,” said Ribaudo. Holmes recognized both Ribaudo and Clare for helping out, thanking them publicly at the awards ceremony.
The award ceremony had many winners, with the Best in Show receiving the Purchase Award of $500. With the juror and college’s help, the Art Department purchased a piece to display for all future students to see. This year’s Purchase Award winner, senior Kristina Mengis, submitted what she described as a “really big weird pillow looking things.”
Looking back on her past experience with the Al Young Juried Art Show, she can certainly see how her confidence has grown. Going forward, Mengis plans on becoming an art therapist, where she says art will serve less selfish purposes and be used to help heal people. Even if she didn’t win anything, she says she sees the importance of getting your name out there and having your name recognized.
Holmes emphasized the purpose of the show, which was for students to get more comfortable with displaying their work and learning to deal with the fact that they may not win anything.
“Any artist needs to deal with rejection,” said Holmes, “the artist’s who tend to be the most successful are the one’s who don’t pay attention to rejection and keep submitting work. This forum is a great introduction to that idea.”
For some artists, such as senior Allison Pritzl, who won this year’s Non-Traditional Award, it’s about sharing her work with her peers. Having the Knox community come together to support artists helps Pritzl feel a sense of safety and acceptance.
“It’s important for me to share my work with other people, and the Al Young is a really good platform for artist who do weird things, like I do, to feel accepted by a community,” Pritzl said.