Recently, I found myself down in Dothan, AL for the first time. And while I’m familiar with coastal Alabama, Dothan and The Wiregrass were a great discovery. Why was I down there? I was invited, along with four other regional artists ( Claire Lewis of Tuscaloosa, Jacob Phillips of Birmingham, Melinda Kellenberger of Dothan and RC Hagans of Opelika to be mentors for an Annual tri-state competition at the museum during Youth Art Month (which is held every March, nationwide). High school art groups from Georgia, Florida and Alabama sent in miniature sculptures to be judged and were narrowed down to five groups. These five groups would spend two days creating an installation to an unknown prompt with unknown materials. The prize? $500.00 donated to the winning school’s art program.
Day One: Mentors, Teams, and locations were pulled at random during orientation. After orientation, My high school group, Enterprise High School were assigned one of the Permanent Collection Galleries with the theme ‘Power’. I spent an hour with the group and then I rotated with the other mentors for most of the day, giving the students different perspectives and trade secrets the rest of the day. While I offered up many thoughts and suggestions–think of me as the Tim Gunn of the Art Box competition, I wanted my students to consider their needs and wants. What are the absolute essentials needed to convey the idea of power in the work. Can you do this with three elements? Two? My students, with the very timely idea of power and being all female, liked this idea of taking power–that it can be strong, but can vary in intent. They made packing tape molds of their hands and worked on creating a three dimensional globe that would be suspended from the ceiling. The day ended with the mentors going group by group and offering an in progress critique.
Day Two: The second day was the race to 3pm, when the spaces needed to be cleaned and ready for judging. The day before ended with me wondering how the group, which had three less than most of the other competing groups, would be able to complete in time. After painting the packing tape hands and arranging them in a reaching cluster, the students really focused on problem solving the globe. The inside was collaged with newspapers was then covered in sections with chicken wire so that cut outs of the continents floated over the collaged interior. While the mayhem was happening, Wiregrass was conducting student video interviews to document the progress and thought process. The Students wrapped up without much incident and the judging began. The forty so students all travelled from installation site to installation site with the judge received critique and answered questions on their process and statement.
The awards were announced during the reception for the youth art exhibition, and I was really happy to hear that my students received the winning award. They really worked hard and challenged themselves to create the installation–I know their teachers and principal will be happy with the award and donation!
I always love going to new art centers and see how programs and exhibitions are handled. If you ever find yourself in Dothan, check out The Wiregrass–The spaces and work are really great and they always have some sort of programming happening. Thanks again to Amanda Holcomb and Dana Marie Lemmer for letting me participate as a mentor!