Sarah Spurgeon Gallery celebrates two years of student art – The Observer

The crowd flooded into the gallery as the Juried Undergraduate Student Art + Design Exhibit opened to the public on May 5. Artists had arrived to see their pieces, their friends had come to support them and art enthusiasts had come to see a diverse display. Attendees lined the walls and gathered around the displays to get a look at the art as the room grew loud with conversation about what the artist’s statement could be. 

The Sarah Spurgeon Art Gallery currently features paintings, graphics and prints lining the walls. Sitting on pedestals in the middle of the floor are sculptures, carvings and other physical art pieces. Attendees looked around the gallery, taking in some pieces that the art and design students have worked on over the last two years.

The Juried Undergraduate Student Art + Design Exhibit is held at the end of each year, to display the art pieces that art and design students have made throughout the year. The reception drew in 197 attendees.The show will remain in the gallery until May 20. 

Gallery manager Heather Horn Johnson explained that this year’s gallery will include pieces from the last two years since some of the art and design students have been taking breaks during the pandemic. 

“It’s important that the students get to display their art and receive rewards and recognition,” Horn Johnson said. 

According to Horn Johnson, this year there was a record breaking 114 students who submitted a total of 175 submissions. 119 pieces were accepted by 76 artists. 

“It’s really difficult as we were walking through, there are a lot of amazing things that aren’t in this room right now,” said Gregg Schlanger, Art and Design Department chair.  

The event lasted from 5-7 p.m. The first hour was spent allowing attendees to walk around and engage with the art while having the opportunity to talk with the artists. 

As the event progressed to the last hour, the awards were then given out, with CWU President James Wohlpart giving the opening speech and Schlanger announcing the winners of the awards. 

“I’m not an artist, I don’t have this kind of creativity,” Wohlpart said. “I am blown away by all this.”

The event included two jurors. The jurors appraise the art pieces and give away awards. 

Elizabeth Mason, a graphic designer at Indigo Slate advertising, was chosen to be the juror for the graphic design entries. Carl Richardson, the Fine Arts Department chair at Spokane Falls Community College, was the juror for the fine art entries. 

Due to the traveling distance, the jurors came a week prior to select the recipients rather than attending the gallery’s exhibition. 

Among the other awards were the purchase awards, where the Student Union Advisory Board Committee purchased some of the art pieces for display in the SURC. 

Current and past faculty and professors also sponsored and chose awards to hand out and Gallery One sponsored an award that gave a student the opportunity to have their pieces included in an upcoming gallery show.

“It means that other people can appreciate the hard work I put into these,” said Jaime Smith, senior in wood and ceramics, who won the Gallery One Visual Arts Award. “I take a lot of pride and dedication into it so it’s really nice to have that recognized by a group of people who are considered to be educated in that area.” 

Smith explained their work is inspired by radiolaria, a micro marine single celled organism. Smith said they try to make their work have an organic feel. 

“There’s a lot of drawings done by Ernest Haeckel,” Smith said. “They’re beautiful, intricate and very organic. A lot of my art is based on those cutouts.”

Savannah Moss, a senior in studio and fine arts, had a different inspiration for their art. They said their art was inspired by their trauma of growing up nonbinary in a binary system. Moss said their work is intended to make the viewer uncomfortable, so they weren’t expecting to win any awards. However, Moss won the Chair’s Choice Award for Studio Art.

“I make work about my trauma, and that is not cathartic for me,” Moss said. “What is cathartic is the viewer’s reactions to my work.”  

Senior in studio arts, Rose Hawkins, makes digital art, which they said is not usually an accepted art form in most galleries when compared to traditional art. Printed versions of their artwork were displayed on the wall. 

“A lot of my work is fantasy linked. I mostly deal in non-real,” Hawkins said. “It’s a way of expressing how I want to exist.”

The gallery gives art students the opportunity to support each other’s work. Moss said they recall seeing a lot of these pieces as they were being worked on, so they found it to be a cool experience to see them all presented this way.

Attendees enjoyed the art and mingled with the artists to ask them questions. 

“The work is so diverse,” senior in philosophy Ronnie Burris said. “It’s so cool not just to see paintings, but sculptures, graphic designs, advertisements and multimedia projects.” 

Burris said they felt student galleries like this were important because this display justifies the artists’ effort to the university and to future employers. 

“It’s really important for students to have their work seen in a gallery space,” Hawkins said. “For me this is the first time my work has ever been in a gallery.”


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