February 27, 2009
Jan Swoope - [email protected]
The Mississippi Collegiate Art Competition has undergone a lot changes since the 1970s, when Mississippi University for Women would rent a huge truck and faculty members Tom Nawrocki, Larry Feeney and David Frank would personally escort hundreds of pieces of student artwork to the prestigious competition in Jackson.
One thing which hasn''t changed much is the university''s success. Of more than 640 submitted entries from undergraduate and graduate art students throughout Mississippi, only 100 were accepted for the competition hosted this year at Millsaps College. Of those, 37 were from MUW students, more than any other program, according to Alex Stelios-Wills, MUW assistant professor of art.
After final judging last week, W students garnered awards in six of the nine media categories of the competition.
Award recipients are Laura Sewell (mixed media), of Northport, Ala.; Teri Lynn Hubbard (fiber), of Batesville; Shana Gibson (computer imaging), of Starkville; Jessy Ingram (design), of Steens; Andy Snyder (photography), of Carriere; and Cynthia Waites (drawing), of Columbus.
"This project was an important development in my portfolio," offered Ingram. "I''m grateful for the guidance and support of my professors."
Hubbard shared, "I feel honored for having my work recognized, especially in such a large group of my peers. ... Honestly, if it had not been for the W and Professor Nawrocki, I could never have accomplished this. Thanks to the support from the art professors, the dedication of my fellow students and the endless hours of work, I''ve gained the confidence to become a serious artist."
The collegiate competition, however, might not have happened at all but for Nawrocki''s commitment years ago.
The juried exhibition was originally established and hosted by the Mississippi Museum of Art from 1950 to 1992, usually as part of an extensive art show in conjunction with the state fair.
"It was an absolutely fabulous showcase of the arts, not only in Mississippi, but in the South," Nawrocki recounted.
But by 1992, the competition was looking for a new home. "The show almost died ... " said Stelios-Wills. "Professor Nawrocki stepped in and took over as head of the collegiate show committee, and he ran it exceptionally well, bringing it back into the black and increasing participation so that, in the last year he oversaw the exhibition, the show received over 1,000 entries."
In 2005, the exhibition was opened to colleges to host on a rotating basis, along with the Meridian Museum of Art. Ironically, as MUW''s turn to host approached, the fine arts building was severely damaged by a tornadic storm. With the newly-renovated Art and Design building now open, the university is hoping to house the exhibit in the near future, said Nawrocki, who stepped down as exhibit coordinator in 2007.
"Mississippi is unique in sponsoring a student exhibit," he added. "To my knowledge, we are the only state with this type of exhibition," he added.
The collegiate show remains on display in Jackson through March 19 in Millsaps College''s Lewis Art Gallery. The gallery is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.