On Sunday, February 13, the Providence Art Club opened its College Fellowship exhibit at the Club’s Dodge House Gallery. The exhibit, on view through March 4, features work by students from Rhode Island colleges.
The exhibit accepted submissions from all Rhode Island sophomores and juniors. After receiving nearly 50 submissions, the gallery chose 28 to exhibit, said gallery director Michael Rose, responsible for selecting the works.
“We’re looking for things that are kind of new and interesting and different, and with students you get a lot of that,” Rose said. Equally important in determining which pieces were on display was whether “you can see in the work that the artist achieved what he was aiming for,” he added. The gallery also considered how well a work would fit into the larger collection.
Outside of the competitive selection process, planning for the exhibit went without too much difficulty, Rose said. “All the schools were really supportive…and many professors were encouraging their students to apply.”
The 2022 exhibition is the second university scholarship exhibition organized by the Club; the first was in 2019. “The main focus is really to better interact with local college students,” Rose said. “We often find that students, especially at Brown and (at the Rhode Island School of Design), will spend four years here and may never set foot in the art club.”.
The exhibition also aims to provide students with a platform to exhibit their work. “The last time we did this, a number of the students who participated in the exhibition said it was the first time (they had artwork) in a professional gallery exhibition” , he added. “So giving artists that first opportunity is really cool.”
Student artist Jaden Bleier ’23 is among the students exhibiting their work in a gallery for the first time. Her play, “The Kiss of Powdered Asses at a Picnic,” features friends on a picnic blanket and includes a collage of make-up, ink, brown paper bags and pictures. from The College Hill Independent.
In particular, Bleier was excited about the exposure to other student artists from Rhode Island and “to see the variety of not only different mediums and themes, but also perspectives,” she said.
Guatemalan-American student artist Dominick Cocozza, a sophomore at RISD, presented a work titled “Beholder,” an oil painting that depicts indigenous themes of empowerment. The portrait focuses on the expression of a young Aboriginal girl during a moment of uncertainty. The painting ties into his larger work, said Cocozza, which shows cultural celebration through portraiture.
In addition to presenting works of art in the exhibition, the Club offers the first prize winner of the exhibition the opportunity to exhibit their work in a solo exhibition next year, as well as a prize of 1,000 $. As announced Sunday, the winner was Rhode Island College student Crickett Fisher. Second place went to Onaje Grant-Simmonds ’24, who took home $500 in prize money. RISD student Regina Gutierrez won third place.
Grant-Simmonds’ award-winning work, “The First Tribe: Primordial Origins,” was part of his ongoing surrealist series titled “Fauna.” The piece, which used oils, acrylics and colored pencils mounted on wood, was inspired by Sigmund Freud. “He had this really wacky origin story of human society, which I found problems in, but in a funny way I almost found it to be an interesting myth in itself – even if it was against myths and religion, he created one (despite) claiming to be a scientist,” Grant-Simmonds said. His work is a commentary on the “myth” of Freud, but is “filled with (his) own characters and motifs”.
“Especially considering the quality of the rest of the art (in the exhibition), I am truly honoured,” Grant-Simmonds wrote in a message to the Herald about winning the runner-up prize. “It’s a good start for my professional career.”
The collection of student work has been well received by some gallery members: “The whole exhibition is very impressive (with) the variety and talent,” remarked Providence Art Club member Cynthia Spencer. .
The success of the exhibition was evident both in the curation of a diverse range of works and in the strong attendance on opening day. Among other shows, the club also plans to host an additional “Invitational Community Show” in August featuring several Rhode Island artists who are not members of the club.