Student art reigns at museum

Published 8:06 pm Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Suffolk Art League executive director Linda Bunch hangs “Recession 2010,” a work by Nansemond River High School student Arielle Elder.

The annual Exhibit of Excellence is back, and this year there was more work submitted than ever before.

“We probably had the biggest turnout ever, which is wonderful,” said Linda Bunch, executive director of the Suffolk Art League, which runs the show.

The show includes art from Suffolk high school sophomores, juniors and seniors. Thirteen awards will be given in an opening reception on Tuesday.

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The Exhibit of Excellence has been presented annually for more than 25 years, Bunch said. It is produced with funding from the Suffolk Fine Arts Commission.

This year, 167 students submitted two works each for consideration in the show. The juror, Diana Davenport, selected 83 pieces for the exhibit.

“We have everything from charcoal and pencil to computer graphics,” Bunch said. “The juror was very complimentary of the photography.”

Davenport currently is supervisor of visual arts in Portsmouth Public Schools. She has taught art to students in all grade levels. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Radford College and a master’s degree from Virginia Commonwealth University, with concentrations in painting and photography. Her artwork currently is on exhibit at Gallery at the Chapman in Hampton and Riverview Gallery in Portsmouth.

“I thought there were some exceptional pieces,” Davenport said. “There was plenty to choose from.”

The juror said she was looking for originality, craftsmanship and skill when choosing which works to include in the show and which works would be award-winners.

“I thought they were just really fabulous,” she said of the winning pieces. “They just jumped out.”

Davenport said she was pleased by the variety of media used in the submitted works.

“It was very nice to see such a wide range in material,” she said. “I did think that the breadth of material and processes really spoke well for the art programs in the city.”

Exposing young artists to a variety of media is important, she added.

“Very often, materials can speak to the artist,” she said. “Many of us respond to subject matter when we’re creating, but sometimes if teachers expose children to a wide range of materials, we begin to recognize that sometimes it is the materials that inspire.”

Davenport also said the photographs in the show were interesting.

“I really enjoyed all the different experimental pieces in photography, as opposed to it being just straight on,” she said. “There were more creative processes used, which was interesting to me.”

Bunch said she was glad she did not have to choose which works to include in the show.

“I am always impressed by the quality of work that comes in for this show,” Bunch said. “I did not envy our juror her task.”

Davenport chose first-, second- and third-place winners, as well as five honorable mentions and five awards of merit.

An opening reception and awards presentation for the students will be held Feb. 1 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Suffolk Art Gallery, 118 Bosley Ave. The reception is open to the public. The show will remain on display through Feb. 27.

The museum is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. Call 925-0448 for more information.