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Art competition gives students experience in public art

Janine Gibbons Fort  Lewis College Art Competition Winner

I grew up in a small fishing town in Southeast Alaska,” says Senior Art major Janine Gibbons. "Petersburg is on an island perched between glaciers and tall majestic mountains. Founded by Norwegians, my hometown was covered in traditional colorful folk art that originated in Scandinavia. Using saturated hues merged with organic abstracted shapes reminds me of my Scandinavian heritage.”

Gibbons is describing “Through the Waves,” her public art installment that is the 2012 winner of the Annual Art in the Library Student Competition. The exhibit will be on display in Reed Library until the end of the school year. See photos of "Through the Waves" here.

'Through the Waves' reflects my adoration of the land and the sea,” explains Gibbons. “My love of working with wood comes from my Native American ancestors who are skilled carvers and weavers. I fuse the inspiration I get from my traditional cultures with the way I create art in a contemporary style.”

The Art in the Library Competition, a partnership between Reed Library and the Art department, is in its third year. A call for proposals goes out in September, and a five-member selection committee comprised of two Library employees, an Art Department faculty member, a student representative, and a Durango community representative selects the next year's featured student artist.

The winner receives a $500 grant to complete the project, which is installed in the Library at the end of the Spring term, and remains on display for a full year.

“The student art competition provides students with real-world experience,” says Library Director Astrid Oliver. “The Library and campus benefit by being able to showcase the excellent work of our students and providing a means to support their artistic endeavors.”

The Art Department also supplies a faculty mentor to guide and oversee the project. For the past two years, Assistant Professor of Art Jay Dougan, a specialist in public art projects who was instrumental in initiating the art competition, has served in this role.

"I wanted students to have opportunities for practice at the process of putting together a professional public art piece -- creating a resume and an artist's statement, writing a proposal, setting up a budget, meeting deadlines, and dealing with the processes,” Dougan explains. “It's important stuff for professional artists. It gets them ready for jobs, gallery shows, and juried competitions. And they sign a contract that says they'll get this done, so it's real experience.”

“Also, you've got to have thick skin and put yourself in front of people,” he adds. “So this exhibit validates what the students do.”

Dougan also points out that, in traditional FLC style, the competition is open to all students, not just Art majors.

“We're a liberal arts college, and that's why I love to teach here," he says. "I enjoy having dialogue with Engineering and Anthropology students. In my ceramics class, I have a Geoscience student who knows about clays and gets excited about the glazing process, which has inspired our Art students think about that medium differently.”

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