Utah Division of Arts & Museums Statewide Annual Exhibition
The Statewide Annual Exhibition is held in the Rio Gallery at the Historic Rio Grande Train Depot. The show is free and open to the public and will run November 16, 2018 through January 11, 2019. This year, the Utah ’18: Craft, Photography, & Video/Digital exhibition had a record number of entries for the media category! 239 artists, along with over 440 works of art, arrived at the Rio Gallery to be juried. UDAM received entries from over 50 cities all over Utah, including Eden, Cedar City, Ephraim, La Sal, Moab, Logan, Ogden, Toquerville, Vernal, Huntsville, Ivins, Payson, St. George, and others throughout the Wasatch Front. Jurors then selected 48 artists for exhibition.
THE BLOCKS sat down with Felicia Baca, manager of the visual arts program for the Utah Division of Arts & Museums, to discuss this year’s exhibition. Felicia told us about the origins of the exhibition, walked us through its process and spoke to the exhibition’s future.
This year’s artists include:
Paul Adams, Carole Alden, Kristin Baird, Serge Ballif, Edward Bateman, Chelsey Blackman-Bray, Amanda Brungardt, Laurel Caryn, Virginia Catherall, Emily Comstock, Lewis Crawford, Juule De Haan, Jane DeGroff, Sadie Dodson, Ethan Edwards, Reid Elem, Trisha Empey, Daniel Everett, Daniel George, Jethro Gillespie, Mary Z. Hutchings, David Hyams, Levi Jackson, Mary Ann Jacobs, Etsuko Kato, Megan Knobloch Geilman, Mary Lambert, Tatiana Larsen, Mitchell Lee, Jiyoun Lee-Lodge, Christopher Lynn, Anna Laurie Mackay, Juanita Marshall, Kylie Millward, Alison Neville, Nancy Nielsen, Burkley Page, John Rees, Nancy Rivera, Sarah Sanchez, James Talbot, Karl Tippets, Rachel Van Wagoner, Jen Watson, Peter Wiarda, Wendy Wischer, Rebecca Woolston, Jaclyn Wright
What is your name? What is your role with the exhibition?
My name is Felicia Baca and I manage the visual arts program for the Utah Division of Arts & Museums. I facilitate and project manage all aspects of the exhibition. Part of this role includes making sure that residents across the state are aware of the opportunity so that we see a broad cross-section of artists represented. I also facilitate the selection of jurors based on feedback from community members and staff, layout and help install the exhibition, and coordinate all other aspects of it such as object loans and the opening reception.
We are the only program in the state that brings in jurors from out of state to jury exhibitions. This gives artists the opportunity to be seen by gallerists, artists, or museum professionals on a national level.
We hope that this may lead to other opportunities for the artists by coming in contact with those jurors. Having an out of state juror also helps to remove the bias from the process that could occur with a local juror. We hope it also ensures excellence in the jury process.
In looking for jurors, we try to select jurors that have both an understanding of traditional and contemporary practices, as well as a specialization of knowledge in the particular media category. My role is mostly to shepherd those jurors through the selection process and informing them of the mission of our programs. But they do pick all of the artwork in the exhibition.
What was the catalyst for the annual, how has it been presented and what is the structure?
Our agency was established in 1898 by a woman named Alice Merrill Horne. She was the second female legislator in the state and ran largely on an arts platform. She established the first state-funded arts council in the nation, beginning with art exhibitions, annual visual art competitions, educational programs, and an art collection. So, in some form, this Statewide Annual exhibition has existed since 1899.
We have been in the Rio Gallery for about 12 years and previously in the Union Pacific Depot. In the past, the Statewide exhibition was held at the Salt Lake Art Center (now UMOCA) and other venues as well. The exhibition is on a three-year cycle that rotates media categories. We have Painting, Sculpture, and Installation one year; Works on Paper and Mixed Media; and this years, which is Photography, Craft and Video/Digital works. The intention is that artists can enter in multiple years depending on their practice. We know the nature of what artists are making doesn’t always fit neatly into media categories, so the hope is that they can try in multiple years. But we also don’t want to impose a theme and we need a way to control the volume of entries in our space. In the last couple years, we added the installation and video/digital categories and we’ve seen a large increase, especially in video and digital works, so we’ve invested in equipment to display that work and hope that our investment also fosters the production of new media work.
What kind of impact do you see this show having on our creative community? Do you have an example or a story of the impact on an artist participating in the show?
I see it as a bidirectional relationship between the public and the artists. Something unique about our venue is that it is a public, multi-use building. So while we have regular art-goers, we also have members of the general public that may not necessarily be expecting an art encounter. We love the opportunity to introduce people to art that may not otherwise have or seek out the experience. So with this exhibition, we hope that it’s a chance to see some of the best art that is being produced across the state. We also hope it’s an important opportunity for artists to exhibit their most recent and exciting work with the public. By facilitating the creative process, we hope that we encourage artists to continue to create work they can then share with the community and that we can demonstrate the public value of the arts (and artists) to the community.
And for artists, again, the component of exposure to nationally recognized jurors is a really important asset, both for critical feedback which is an important part of the professional development process and for the opportunity to engage with high caliber jurors that could potentially create future opportunities for them.
Something else unique to our program is creating an exciting context for emerging artists to show alongside nationally and internationally recognized Utah artists, which provides an opportunity to bolster their resume and develop mentorship possibilities. We often see examples where an art professor maybe doesn’t get into the show, but their students do. Having an exhibition where the jury process is blind often creates this context.
Our Best in Show winner a couple of years ago was Amy Jorgensen. As a result of the juror’s award, she was able to later meet in Arizona with Joshua Chuang (the juror), a highly respected photography curator. He took the time to review her portfolio and offered feedback for future projects. Her meeting was documented and posted to Instagram by another influential curator, and she said she had no doubt that exposure was influential in many of the opportunities she had later that year. The other juror, Kate Bonansinga wrote a lovely essay about her work which was very helpful in securing additional screenings of that work in Los Angeles at three venues as well as a 23-foot video Billboard on Sunset Avenue in LA.
Lastly, another really exciting thing is that our state art acquisitions committee tours this exhibition and they make it a priority to purchase works from the show which then go into the State of Utah Alice Merrill Horne Art Collection. We had another success story where one of the acquisition members purchased the work of Levi Jackson for a personal collection, and then from the exposure of that collector, he ended up selling additional works to different buyers. We always hope to hear these type of stories from the opportunities that we offer.
Do you feel that the Statewide Annual is a good representation of our creative community as a whole?
We certainly hope so, and continually make efforts to further the reach and diversity of the exhibition. One way that we do this is by allowing those in rural communities to apply online, even if they can’t get their work to the gallery to be juried in person. So, from a percentage perspective in terms of representing different geographic areas, the exhibition is composed of artists from communities statewide. We see everything from interactive art installations, traditional landscape paintings, quilts, ceramics, new media works, and more.
How can local artists apply, what are the requirements, what should they take into consideration?
First of all, the opportunity is free! The exhibition call typically opens in late September and closes in late October. Any visual artists over age 18 can enter two works of art. We just need basic contact information and data on what you’re entering into the exhibition. Artists should take into consideration that it’s always best for jurors to see the physical objects in the gallery if possible. I’d also like artists to know that applying to exhibitions, and sometimes rejection is an important part of the professional development process. Stay determined, and always be open to the opportunity for feedback. It’s truly a wonderful opportunity for us to see the fantastic work being made across the state and connect face to face with artists. The jury process is always subjective in some way, and we hope we can encourage artists to continue refining their craft and persevering in their endeavors.
What’s in the cards for the Statewide Annual Exhibition? How would you like to see it grow?
With a consistent increase in entries each year, we would love to be able to see the show grow in size. We would also like increased flexibility with digital and projected media which can be limited in our space. In the past, segments of the exhibition have been included in our Traveling Exhibition program and we’d love to revisit this and have a subset of the show travel to different contexts such as museums and art centers around the state.
Artwork in order of appearance:
Christopher Lynn, Wall Fall, Video, 2017, West Valley City
Paul Adams, Sally, One of the Last Native Speakers of Alutiiq”, Wet plate collodion tintype, 2017, Lindon
Carole Alden, “Fish House”, Fiber sculpture, 2017, Heber City