Return to the beginning
There is a saying "The more things change the more they stay the same" or something like that. I have found that saying to be true. Putting aside the geopolitical actions that are occurring as of late the 1980's called they want their Cold War back, I got an opportunity to return to my Alma Mater this week. The place were my art truly gained traction and was born, reborn, born again, reborn again, etc, etc, etc. It was comforting to walk in to the sculpture studio and see it brimming with energy. Young art students, franticly trying to complete work for a deadline, professors pushing them, challenging them and building relationships with them. Yet it was all different, different faces, different tools, different random notes on walls, and different art.
So why did I return to my old stomping grounds? Simple I was asked too. I was asked if I would jury the 3D work for the annual student show. Now you know me, when I got that call first thought that crossed my mind was have they hit the bottom of the barrel? Did everyone else say no? Once I got beyond the usual self deprecating brain thoughts (thanks brain). I whole heartedly accepted and was actually honored to take on the task. Man and it was a task.
I began my trip to the University of Southern Mississippi around 11:30 it was going to be an hour drive and I had a couple of NAEA virtual conference presentations to keep my company on the drive. Pulling into to the 3d arts building at 12:30 I squeezed my old truck into the snug parking spot and headed into the best building on USM's campus. Ok so maybe I'm a bit biased. Walking into the gallery space I saw that it was already filling up with some amazing work, but I averted my eyes as much as possible as the final entry time wasn't till 3:00 pm.
I ran into my contact, Mark Rigsby, he was finishing up a little work before we could head to lunch and he told me go wander for a few minutes. Immediately I beelined it for the metal studio, passing by the open studio space where students moved like angry ants at a kicked mound. There I found one of my old professors Jennifer Torres, happy hugs were exchanged and she gave me the lowdown on the new equipment coming to the studio. To make room for said equipment the storage lockers for the upper level students had to be moved so I didn't get to see my old spray painted place of happiness.
As I was making my way back towards the front to hook up with Mark, a tiny voice said "Christian Bailey?" I replied with the only way I knew how, "Yep". To which I got back the words "You were my art teacher in high school" What???? one of my former students is pursuing a degree in sculpture at my alma mater? That poor kiddo. Seriously though it warmed my cold art teacher heart to talk with Emma and hear how much she is enjoying the program. Also my plan to take over the world with former art students is coming along nicely.
After a fantastic lunch and chatting about art and art education it was time to get down to the business. The jurying process.
This was my first time jurying a show. I mean I've picked work for going to competitions for my students and curated my own solo shows, but I've never picked work for a show and then had to decide who was 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and best in show. It was a bit daunting to say the least. Especially when faced with the caliber and amount of work produced by these students.
Here is how it process went, first there were 3 separate categories, 3D design, Sculpture, and Ceramics. Each category was to awarded 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place and one piece was to be awarded Best in Show overall. Not only did I have to decide that I had to decide which pieces were going into the show. That is some heavy weight right there. Well I put on my big boy boots and got to picking. I started first with just deciding what work would go into the show. This resulted 10000 steps and me dancing with a red marker to dot the pages of the accepted pieces. Once that part was done, it was time to get down to nitty gritty, what pieces were the winners. Another 10000 steps later, I had picked out my top 4-5 in each category and it was now time to delve deeper into the works. It is tough, man is it tough to pick the top works when each piece is so vastly different from the one next to it. But I managed to complete the challenge and feel good about the works chosen to be in the show and with the winners.
You heard me say it was tough, but it was something I thoroughly enjoyed. Going back to USM, seeing the place change, but still be the same, still producing young artists who will make a mark upon the world was the icing on the cake. Anyways, I've rambled on way to long so I'll finish with this, do the hard thing it will be worth.