For 32 years, Lowell has been home to a regional competition that draws artists from across West Michigan. Tonight, winners for the 32nd Annual West Michigan Art Competition will be announced, and the community is invited to attend a reception recognizing them and applauding all those who participated.
The reception will be held on Thursday, March 15th from 6-8pm at the LowellArts Gallery at 223 W. Main St (corner of Main Street and N. Broadway). Winners will be announced at 6:30pm.
Highly Regarded Art Competition
Janet Teunis, project director for LowellArts, has been with the organization for four years. While she isn’t familiar with the origins of the art competition, she knows that it’s one of the highlight events of the year for many local artists.
“It’s one of several competitions in the region that a lot of contestants look forward to entering each year,” Teunis says. “It’s an honor to be accepted.”
Artists residing is 25 counties – from St. Joseph to Osceola from south to north and Clinton to Ottawa from east to west – are eligible to enter their work. As a juried competition, artists must submit an application to enter, and only those pieces deemed to be of a certain caliber are accepted.
As a result, the West Michigan Art Competition includes high-quality work, spanning a variety of mediums. “The show is always so consistently strong each year,” Teunis says. For 2018, there were 228 submissions, and 121 were selected to be shown. The selections include pieces from artists based in 15 counties.
One Distinguished Juror Selects Winners
Although LowellArts is hosting the competition, staff at the local non-profit don’t select the winners. Instead, as is customary for art shows, a distinguished juror from outside the organization is brought in to evaluate entries and select winners.
For the 32nd Annual West Michigan Art Competition, that distinguished juror is Ryan Kaltenbach. Holding degrees from both Kalamazoo College and Northwestern University, Kaltenbach is the exhibits director of the Northville Art House. As a Michigan native and resident, he has extensive experience in the art scene on the east side of the state and has served as juror for five previous exhibits there.
When it comes to evaluating artwork, Kaltenbach says he is looking for visual appeal, a balanced composition and technical skills. What’s more, he’s interested is seeing what a piece has to offer that may set it apart from other entries.
“I look for uniqueness in the elements, objects and subject matter that may differentiate one piece from another,” Kaltenbach explains. “I hope to find meaning in a piece. For example, is the piece made simply for aesthetic beauty or does it reference other art, make a statement or tell a story?”
Tonight, artists and the public will find out which five entries best meet Kaltenbach’s criteria. Winning artists receive cash prizes ranging from $150 for fifth place to $1,000 for first place. Altogether, $2,500 will be awarded.
What to Expect if You Go Tonight
The West Michigan Art Competition entries will be on display in the LowellArts gallery until April 14, 2018, but tonight is your best chance to mingle with the artists. Many will be on-hand to hear the winners announced and discuss their work with those in attendance.
“The fun part is looking at the artwork,” Teunis says. “There are definitely some pieces in the show that make you think.”
Kaltenbach agrees. “The art in the exhibition is powerful in that the certain pieces…tell a story, make a political statement, promote a cause, bring attention to an issue or simply are aesthetically appealing,” he says.
The reception runs from 6-8pm this evening, March 15, with winners announced at 6:30pm. There will be light finger food and drinks available. The reception is free and admittance to the gallery – on any day – is also free.
For more information about the West Michigan Art Competition and other local arts events, visit the LowellArts website.