Archive for the 'Awards' Category

Society 1858 Impacts Careers of Contemporary Southern Artists

Applications for the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art are streaming in and we are excited to see what the 2016 group of submissions will look like! This will be the eighth year the Prize has been awarded and the third year since we began receiving and archiving the submissions online at An invaluable tool for our panel of judges and applicants by streamlining the application and review process, the website doubles as a searchable online archive and an amazing repository of contemporary southern art. Anyone from curators and collectors, to academics and the general public, can access the work of over 500 artists from eleven states. And this will continue to grow and grow as a new group of Prize applicants is added to the archive each year. The potential for this one-of-a-kind archive to become a significant resource and tool is an added bonus and exciting component of the Prize.

First and foremost, this significant annual award of $10,000 is made possible by the collaborative efforts of many people. The Prize is funded by Society 1858, a member auxiliary group of the Museum; and is judged and awarded by a panel of visual arts professionals, museum representatives, and Gibbes staff members. In the last seven years, the Prize has recognized some of the most compelling and thought-provoking work coming out of the South, reframing the way people think about contemporary southern art. From Deborah Luster’s powerful and evocative portraits of prisoners in Louisiana (2015 Winner, Louisiana) to Patrick Dougherty’s whimsical site-specific sculptures made entirely of twigs and branches (2011 Winner, North Carolina), the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art recognizes artists who are making an impact that will be recognized for generations to come.

Patrick Dougherty

I have been thrilled to be a part of the process—working with my co-chair Liza Cleveland, our board chair Jamieson Clair, and the amazing Gibbes staff—to coordinate the events surrounding the 2016 award. After the success of last year’s dinner program with winner Deborah Luster, we realized that the opportunity to hear directly from the artists about their process—and the impact that the award will have on their lives and work—was an element that was lacking in the current format. This year, the Prize will be all the more anticipated with the reopening of the Gibbes giving us an opportunity to add several new components to the program. I am particularly excited that this year’s winner will be announced in advance of the award event—allowing for the opportunity to promote the artist and raise awareness about their work prior to the award ceremony. We plan to include an artist talk as well as a panel discussion around the award celebration, which will be held in our beautiful new museum. Also, on view at that time will be The Things We Carry (May 28–October 9), an exhibition featuring the work of eleven Prize finalists and winners in response to the Emanuel AME tragedy last June. Society 1858 is pleased to be a sponsor of this exhibition!

Deborah Luster

Deborah Luster was awarded the 1858 Prize in 2015.

I encourage everyone to visit the website at where you can browse through all 528 applicants from the past two years. The search options are endless—you can see the work of the five artists who submitted work from Kentucky; or discover that there has been only one submission by a sculptor from Arkansas but nineteen from Georgia. The deadline for this year’s applications is May 31st, and the short list of finalists will be announced over the summer. I hope everyone will spread the word to potential applicants and will stay tuned for the announcement of the 2016 winner.

Anja Kelley, 1858 Prize Co-chair and guest blogger

1858 Prize Finalist Deborah Luster

Deborah Luster, a finalist for the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art, from New Orleans, Louisiana, investigates the violence of her home city through photographs. Her mother was a homicide victim, which has inspired Luster to photograph scenes of crimes as well as inmates in Louisiana prisons. Her two bodies of work, “One Big Self: Prisoners of Louisiana” and “Tooth for an Eye: A Chorography of Violence in Orleans Parish,” grapple with death, violence, and the environments in which tragedies take place.

The photographs that compose “One Big Self” are held inside a black steel cabinet, from which viewers must open heavy drawers in order to see and touch the “invisible persons” that inhabit Lousiana’s prisons. On the back of each of the photographs in this collection is information concerning the inmates captured in each photograph, transforming these individuals into human beings rather than mere criminals. For the artist, “‘One Big Self’ is a document to ward off forgetting, an opportunity for those inmates to present themselves as they would be seen, bringing what they own or borrow or use: work tools, objects of their making, messages of their choosing, their bodies, themselves.” The photographs that make up this collection are intensely personal and moving, giving a social presence to those marginalized members of society that have committed acts of violence and are paying their dues.


One Big Self: Prisoners of Louisiana, 1998-2003, Deborah Luster

In a city as vibrant and culturally diverse as New Orleans, violence is often overlooked, despite its huge presence in the community. “Tooth for an Eye” works to illustrate the themes of loss and remembrance that are central to everyday life in a city where “life and death coexist, neither free of the other’s influence.” The images of “Tooth for an Eye” are contained in ledgers, which are laid out on a sweet gum, hickory, and steel table, again requiring the viewer to touch and interact with the work. This hands-on experience gives a more emphatic significance to the Luster’s photographs, requiring viewers to face the violence and tragedy that the artist captures with her camera.

Deborah Luster

Tooth for an Eye, Ledger 06-16, by Deborah Luster
2008 – 2011


Location: 2400 Villere Street (St. Roch)

Date(s): January 10, 1993

January 18, 1993

June 13, 2009 1 a.m.

November 17, 2008

Name(s): Jermaine White (20)

Brother Emerson (17)

Leroy Harris ((19)

Kendrick Thomas (22)

Deborah Luster participated in the Irish Museum of Modern Arts 2014 Residency Programme in Dublin, after she was awarded a 2013 John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. Her work is currently on show in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, New Orleans Museum of Art, and other private and public collections. Read more about her life and work here.

1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art Unveiling Party
Thursday, September 17, 6pm
$25 Society 1858 Members, $35 Non-Members
Location: The Drawing Room at The Vendue, 19 Vendue Range

1858 Prize Dinner
Thursday, September 17, 7:30pm
$100 Society 1858 Members, $135 Non-Members
Location: The Gallery at The Vendue, 26 Vendue Range

For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit

India Dial, Marketing Intern, 2015

Q&A with 1858 Prize Finalist Kevin Jerome Everson

Kevin Jerome Everson, a finalist for the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art, grew up in Mansfield, Ohio. He received an MFA from Ohio University and a BFA from the University of Akron. He currently works as an Associate Professor of Art at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, where he teaches film.

What is your creative process?

My films combine scripted and documentary elements with touches of formalism. The subject matter is the gestures or tasks caused by certain conditions in the lives of working class African Americans and other people of African descent. The conditions are usually physical, social-economic circumstances or weather. Instead of standard realism I favor a strategy that abstracts everyday actions and statements into theatrical gestures, in which archival footage is re-edited or re-staged, real people perform fictional scenarios based on their own lives and historical observations intermesh with contemporary narratives. The films suggest the relentlessness of everyday life—along with its beauty—but also presents oblique metaphors for art making.

Kevin Jerome Everson

Still from “Ninety-Three,” 2008, by Kevin Jerome Everson

The new work still embraces the similar condition, but I am increasingly interested in interrupting documentary scenes with abstract, formal scenes, those situations where necessity collides with coincidence. The coincidence is the scene that looks as if it was culled from archival footage, an accident or mistake in the actual film material, while necessity is the plot or character that drives the film. I am pleased when these qualities collide in terms of form, because it plays with this ambivalent relationship between art and narrative, fact and fiction. Eventually, I trust that by working in this manner, years from now, I will see my work as achieving pure form.

What is important to my creative process is for the work to reveal the materials, procedure and process. This approach comes from my undergraduate art instruction and influences. My professors, educated at Iowa University and Yale in the 1970s, taught from this standpoint during my college years in the 80’s. It was a post-Smithson approach. I believe that this approach is not necessarily important to be noticeable to the viewer; it merely explains how I continue to approach the craft of art making. I firmly believe that the materials (film, video) of the work must be noticeable. A light flare, over-exposed film, color flares, distorted sounds and even prolonged taping enhance my notion of materiality. Procedure is the formal quality I am exploring with the work. The process is the execution of the formal quality. Once I have a grasp of procedure, the process becomes a discipline. Recently I’ve been making films with single eleven-minute takes, the real-time exposure of a 400’ roll of 16mm film. The materials are the 16mm film and camera. The procedure is that everything has to be framed within a limited time structure. The process is filming everything with that eleven-minute time structure in mind.

Where do you draw inspiration for your work?

I respond to story telling in the Black community. Mostly around the working class Midwest. I am drawn to fragile moments between success and failure in daily life.


Half On Half Off,” 2011, by Kevin Jerome

Still from “Half On Half Off,” 2011, by Kevin Jerome Everson

Who are your influences?

Comedian Richard Pryor and the playwright Lorraine Hansberry are big influences in my work. Both of these artists herald from the state of Illinois. I respond to Pryor because of his ability to create colorful minor characters and give them depth with one or two lines of dialogue. Hansberry has a knack for creating fragile spaces between success and failure for characters. Also a big influence is the Baroque Italian painter Caravaggio, the American photographer Garry Winogrand, and the Swiss sculptors Peter Fischli and David Weiss.

Do you have a favorite work that you have produced? If so, please describe it. 

I made many films that I love but Emergency Needs (2007, 7 minutes, color, 16mm and HD) is one of my favorite films. Emergency Needs is about the first Black mayor of a major metropolitan city dealing with an explosive event in 1968. Carl B. Stokes was elected mayor of Cleveland in 1967. Many credited his election on the devastating east side Hough riots of the summer of 1967. Cleveland was one of a few cities that did not burn down when Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated in April 1968. However the easy calm did not last long. In the summer of 1968 the east side of Cleveland erupted with the Cleveland-Shoot-Out AKA the Glenville Uprising. The Glenville Uprising was one of the only conflicts where more police officers died than black Americans. Inside the uprising areas, white police officers were indiscriminately shooting innocent black Americans so they could get the number of death balanced (or unbalanced). Mayor Stokes’ solution to the violent acts of the police was to only let black national guard troops, black police officers and black state police officers inside the uprising areas. His planned worked. Emergency Needs uses found footage of Mayor Stokes being cool and calm during several hostile press conferences. The Mayor’s performance was incredible. I wanted to highlight his performances by hiring an actor to mimic the performance. The film uses archival footage of Mayor Stokes buttressed against a re-enactment. It was the first time I had tried re-enacting found footage. Now it is part of one of my artistic practices.  Emergency Needs is one of my successful films.

Emergency Needs,” 2007, by Kevin Jerome Everson;

Still from “Emergency Needs,” 2007, by Kevin Jerome Everson

How did you find out about the 1858 Society Prize?

I found out about it through my artist peers.

1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art Unveiling Party
Thursday, September 17, 6pm
$25 Society 1858 Members, $35 Non-Members
Location: The Drawing Room at The Vendue, 19 Vendue Range

1858 Prize Dinner
Thursday, September 17, 7:30pm
$100 Society 1858 Members, $135 Non-Members
Location: The Gallery at The Vendue, 26 Vendue Range

For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit

India Dial, Marketing Intern, 2015

Q&A with 1858 Prize Finalist Aldywth

Aldwyth, one of the six finalists for the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art, has lived in relative seclusion in Hilton Head, SC for several decades. Her work is composed of collages and assemblages that she creates from found objects, appropriated images, and other elements. She sees her work as very closely connected to her every day life, in the sense that her work is essentially her life and vice versa.

“I make my work for myself — each ‘work’ is defined as both verb and noun. The large collages and the bricolage work are made of many small works that inform each other. I never know what a work will look like until it is finished. It’s what I get up for every morning — to see what will happen during the process. Most of my work starts out as ‘what if’ or ‘how can I.’ The subject matter is generally autobiographical with science and technology underlying themes. The work is about what I do, making art, process. I use a series to examine a problem or idea — then usually the series ends up as one work. I spend months going through magazines and books, filing and cutting out images that will become one of several ideas simmering at a time. At sometime in the preparation I have to start putting certain things together and a work starts to take form and leads me on a fabulous trip.”

Aldwyth, SecretsofMyMind

Secrets of my mind,

A brain storm of images and thoughts by artists crowding my mind pushing all else aside.

Aldwyth, “Where were you when the moon was full?”

Where were you when the moon was full?, (2001-2005)

What it means to be in the right place at the right time (or vice versa).

This very close association between life and work results in incredibly detailed and intricate works — often monumental in scale — that express a range of emotions and artistic inspiration. Each of Aldwyth’s works is different from the last, as her thoughts and emotions develop from day to day. She does not rush a project, but rather holds on to images and objects for years at a time, so that when she needs them she knows exactly where to find them. Aldwyth’s works, abstracted and detailed, have an incredibly well-thought out and polished quality which expresses an underlying meaning and inspiration — a true testament to the comprehensive and thorough process that she engages in every day.

“Evolution of a species” Aldwyth

Evolution of a species

This piece is an investigation into process and the work ethic done during seminal residency (my “MFA” thesis?) at ARAC. With access to all facilities, I learned new skills and fabricated 69 small 3 legged experiments. The work grew with me. A record of the fabrication of each work, texts collaged on every edge of containers, and all things pertaining to the work, are recorded in old ledger. I like to think of someone sitting with the work, packed, and opening each part, feeling the textures – reading the text some from old bootleg copy of Robinson Crusoe, and Science and Human Values by Bronowski and unwrapping each experiment and reading its documentation in the Book. Later, the repacked containers attached to a framework on wheels would be transported to a dark corner, leaving behind the Book open to a favorite page.

“Casablanca classic version”

Casablanca classic version (2003-2006)

Visualizing a flood of eyes looking out as if the art were the observer. Silk tissue covers work by some of my favorite artists with the eyes sliding over and around the works – some embellished with the eyes of their creator.

The World According to Zell

The world according to Zell

An encyclopedia is a snapshot of what is deemed important at THAT time and by THAT compiler THIS is a compilation of those same images as THIS artist responds to them at THIS time. Every picture from 1873 Zell Encyclopedia (2000 plus) rearranged as still life, landscape, portraiture, abstraction, science, technology. Penciled across the central background are thoughts on the effect technology would have had on the process and the differences between traditional and computer generated collage. The attachment assists with details.

1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art Unveiling Party
Thursday, September 17, 6pm
$25 Society 1858 Members, $35 Non-Members
Location: The Drawing Room at The Vendue, 19 Vendue Range

1858 Prize Dinner
Thursday, September 17, 7:30pm
$100 Society 1858 Members, $135 Non-Members
Location: The Gallery at The Vendue, 26 Vendue Range

For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit

India Dial, Marketing Intern, 2015

Q&A with 1858 Prize Finalist, Andréa Keys Connell

Andréa Keys Connell, one of the six finalists for the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art, graduated with a BFA from Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore in 2002 and went on to earn an MFA from Ohio University in Athens in 2009. She currently lives and works in Richmond, Virginia, where she is Clay Area Head and Assistant Professor in the Department of Craft and Material Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. Connell produces monumental works in clay, which grapple with the complex ideas of human defenselessness, expressed through distorted, elongated, and fragmented bodies, many of which appear to be melting. These deeply moving installations suggest the unavoidable vulnerability of mankind.

What is your creative process?

That is such a big question because I do not think that my life is separate from my process. I am constantly observing, gathering, processing.. repeat… There is not much that enters my life that does not filter in some way into my analytical process. As for my physical making process… I had my “coming to clay” moment when I was a junior in college. Prior to that, I was focusing primarily on painting and photography. When I found clay, a connection between my brain, heart, and hands clicked on, and I never left the clay studio. When I think about it now it makes a lot of sense. My mother collected Majolica , Zsnolnay, and Herend and when I was little, I would play with the Zsolnay and Herend figurines as though they were dolls. When she would catch me playing with them she would take them and place them back on their shelves reminding me of their preciousness. Their “preciousness” only made them more valuable to me and the narratives that I would impose on them. I think I am also just more of a 3D thinker when it comes to making. It was such a relief to me when I found clay — to be able to discover a form through the ability to touch it in the round. It is such a physical relationship, and when making life size or larger figures, I find myself hugging and pressing up against, pushing and pulling on the clay — and all of this contact is imprinted on the surface of the clay…it’s a pretty delicious way of making…I build my pieces hollow, moving between coils, slabs, and pinching. Building hollow provides me with the ability to form my figures by pressing from the inside. This feels very natural to me in thinking about the body — the skin/clay is shaped by what is beneath it. In this case, it is the internal pressure that I am using to shape the skin — I find an endless supply of metaphors in this way of making and representing the figure.


From where do you draw inspiration for your work?

I have my go to sources that I am always pulling imagery and content from such as newspapers, photojournalism, monuments, figurines, statuary, fables, battlefields, graveyards, Romanticism, wind… and then there are the things that inspire me unexpectedly — those are usually the most powerful points of inspiration, when something just comes to me, changes me, makes me see something in new way. This is usually inspired by a specific space, a sound, a book, news, birth, death. I am fascinated by people and by how our life experiences shape who we become, and I believe that the body reveals far more than the mind wants it to — for this reason, I have a terrible habit of observing faces and bodies very closely and I draw great inspiration from watching the way someone moves their mouth when they talk or are on the verge of speaking. I love hands and feet, and their ability to tell a different story than the mouth. I love wrinkles and sags and bags, fingernails, toenails, and earlobes… all of the parts of the body that have the ability to speak volumes about an individual’s history.

Andrea Keys Connell

“Boreas,” 2014, by Andrea Keys Connell

Who are your artistic influences?

I find endless inspiration in Delacroix and Gérricault paintings — particularly The Barque of Danté and The Raft of the Medusa, and I have an endless list of artist whom I admire. I can however, name the three pieces of art that have moved me on a profound level, and whom I am deeply grateful for- The first is a painting by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Girl With Broken Pitcher, 1891. This painting is located in the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco. I came across it when I was 16 and I found myself completely enraptured by the mysterious story behind the girl’s gaze. I recognized something in myself in this girl and it was the first piece of art to move me to tears. The second is James Turrell’s Into the Light. I stood in the room with this floating square of light for a long time, trying very hard to understand how it existed. When I convinced myself that it was somehow projected onto the wall, another viewer moved her hand through the square. It is hard to describe this throttling shift of perspective, but it was so profound that my knees buckled. Come to think of it, I had a similar experience when I realized the poetics of Felix Gonzalez-Toress work. The third piece is a more recent piece that I believe to be one of the most achingly strong pieces I have seen in a very long time, Heather Cassil’s Becoming an Image. There are so many levels of conversation that lie within this piece that it actually renders me speechless. 


“Un-Home-Like,” 2010, by Andrea Keys Connell

“Un-Home-Like,” 2010, by Andrea Keys Connell


1858 prize finalist Andrea Keys Connell

The Barque of Dante, 1822, by Eugène Delacroix

Do you have a favorite of the work that you have produced? If so, please describe it.

I am very excited by the public art commission that I just completed for the Cleveland Public Library, Migration. The potential in public art is a very interesting challenge that I would love to continue to engage. Through this project and a previous commission, I have been able to work in a scale that never seemed possible before. I can see a space where I can truly challenge the notion of the monumental/monument.

1858 prize finalist Andrea Keys Connell

“Migration,” Cleveland Public Library, 2015, by Andrea Keys Connell

How did you find out about the 1858 Prize?

I have followed this prize over the last three years and am deeply honored to be amongst the finalists.

Read more about Andréa Keys Connell’s work here and on her website.

1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art Unveiling Party
Thursday, September 17, 6pm
$25 Society 1858 Members, $35 Non-Members
Location: The Drawing Room at The Vendue, 19 Vendue Range

1858 Prize Dinner
Thursday, September 17, 7:30pm
$100 Society 1858 Members, $135 Non-Members
Location: The Gallery at The Vendue, 26 Vendue Range

For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit

India Dial, Marketing Intern, 2015

Society 1858 Announces Sonya Clark as the 2014 Winner of the 1858 Prize

Sonya Clark

Artist Sonya Clark

Society 1858, an auxiliary group of the Gibbes Museum of Art, is pleased to announce Sonya Clark as the 2014 winner of the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art. Awarded annually with a cash prize of $10,000, the 1858 Prize acknowledges an artist whose work demonstrates the highest level of artistic achievement in any media, while contributing to a new understanding of art in the South. This year, over 250 artists from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia submitted applications. Clark is the first female artist to be awarded the 1858 Prize. Her work examines contemporary issues of gender and race through a variety of mediums.

“Sonya Clark is a phenomenal artist whose intellectual rigor and thoughtful approach to materials stands out from the crowd. Her work truly embodies the spirit of the 1858 Prize and its mission to contribute to a new understanding of contemporary southern art,” says Gibbes Museum Curator of Exhibitions, Pam Wall.

Clark holds an MFA (Cranbrook Academy of Art), a BFA (Art Institute of Chicago), and a BA in psychology (Amherst College) and chairs the Department of Craft/Material Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. Her work has been exhibited in over 250 museums and galleries in Europe, Africa, Asia, South America, Australia, and throughout the United States. She uses objects such as cloth, hair, and combs to give voice to the complexity of American identity and history. Simple objects become an interface for dialog that ranges from the vernacular to the political to the poetic.  Her work includes a variety of mediums. In “My Hair Craft Project (Jamilah)” she engages Southern hairdressers to use her body as canvas to re-frame Black hairdressing as art.

Black Hair Flag by Sonya Clark

Black Hair Flag by Sonya Clark

“Given the calibre of the finalists, I am absolutely humbled to be chosen for the 1858 Award. The complexities and the simplicities that drive the content of my work will be amplified by this generous support. I am both buoyed by this endorsement of my past work and eager to delve into the well of the next possibilities. To the folks in Society 1858 at the Gibbes Museum: thank you, thank you, thank you,” says Sonya Clark.


1858 Unveiling Party

Sonya Clark with finalist Jim Arendt and his wife (and 7 week old baby!) at the Unveiling Party

Clark came to Charleston for the Unveiling Party on Thursday evening to speak to a sold-out crowd of over 150 attendees at the Vendue. She spoke to Adam Parker, Arts Editor of the Post and Courier and said ” Always I am fueled by curiosity in the ways we are uniquely individual and yet inherently connected.” read the rest of her interview here.

Clark’s work is on view  at Crystal Bridges Museum as part of the State of the Art, Discovering American Art Now exhibition that opened September 13 and runs through January 19, 2015.

Unveiling Party photo by Carolina Photosmith

1858 Prize Finalists

1858 Prize Short List of Finalists

1858 Prize Short List of Finalists

The finalists have been revealed! In June, the Gibbes Museum of Art and Society 1858 announced the 2014 short list for the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art. Jim Arendt, Sonya Clark, Andre Leon Gray, Jackson Martin, Jason Mitcham, Damian Stamer, and Stacy Lynn Waddell are the seven finalists for the prize. The winner will be announced on September 18th  at an event hosted by Society 1858.

Launching the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art has been a remarkable journey. Awarded annually with a cash prize of $10,000, the prize acknowledges an artist whose work demonstrates the highest level of artistic achievement in any media, while contributing to a new understanding of art in the South. A little over a year ago,  the executive director of the Gibbes, Angela Mack, came to Society 1858, the museum’s young patron auxiliary group, to see if we were interested in taking over the prize competition that had been established by Mallory and Elizabeth Factor in 2007.

The Society 1858 Board of Directors, led by co-chairs Margaret Furniss and Jamieson Clair, began the process of evaluating how we could rejuvenate and re-launch the prize. The first step was fund-raising, and we worked hard to raise money through sponsorships. We are incredibly thankful for our wonderful sponsors, Wells Fargo, Caviar & Bananas, Maybank Industries, Blackbaud, BoomTown!, Marc and Marnie Chardon, and Ellen and Edwin Harley. Another key initiative was creating a new web presence for the prize, and we partnered with the brilliant team at Blue Ion to launch a fabulous 1858 Prize website. The final step in the planning process was to establish a plan to foster long-term relationships with our prize-winning artists.

In May, at the close of the application process, we were thrilled to have over 250 submissions. The diversity, talent, and creativity of the artists who applied are a tribute to the contemporary art scene throughout the Southeast. Pam Wall, Gibbes curator of exhibitions, led a distinguished panel of judges: Charles Ailstock, Society 1858 Board Member; Jamieson Clair, Society 1858 Board Member; Jennifer Dasal, Associate Curator of Contemporary Art at the North Carolina Museum of Art; Marilyn Laufer, Director of the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University; Frank McCauley, Assistant Director and Curator of the Sumter County Gallery of Art; and John Westmark, artist and 2012 Prize winner to narrow down the finalist to seven. I invite you to learn more about our finalists on our website at Additional information can be found on our Facebook and Instagram pages.

The goal of Society 1858 in taking over the prize was not only to support a contemporary artist right here in the Southeast, but also to form partnerships with these artists. We hope to support future installations, exhibits, and events that will introduce the artists to Charleston and the regional art community. For example, John Westmark, the 2012 Prize winner, had an exhibition, John Westmark: Narratives, that showed at the Gibbes through August 3 of this year. Society 1858 helped to sponsor this exhibition and enjoyed a behind-the-scenes tour with John where he spoke of his inspiration in creating the collection. We also have exciting plans to work with the Gibbes to establish an artist in residence program with 1858 Prize winners.

The Fireflies by John Westmark

The Fireflies by John Westmark

We have been honored by some of the feedback we have received from past and current finalists and winners about the impact the prize has had on their careers. John Westmark says winning the prize in 2012 has validated his work: “Without opportunities and acknowledgements, an artist runs the risk of toiling away in relative obscurity.” John has gone on to win other juried prizes and have exhibitions around the country. It has been an honor to get to know him and his beautiful work and to have helped contribute in even a small way to his tremendous success.

Mark your calendars! I invite you to join us when we announce the winner of the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art on September 18 at the Vendue. It’s no secret that Society 1858 likes to celebrate, and the prize announcement provides just such an occasion. We are thrilled to report that the newly renovated Vendue: Charleston’s Art Hotel will be hosting this celebration in honor of the 2014 winner, with exciting opportunities to get to know this special artist.

Join us Thursday, September 18, from 7-9pm
19 Vendue Range
$15 1858 Members, $20 Non-Members
For more information and to purchase tickets please visit or call 843.722.2706 x21

Check out my blog about the prize on Charleston Grit!

Amy Coy, Society 1858 President and Guest Blogger

The 1858 Prize and One Artist’s Perspective

The Fireflies by John Westmark

The Fireflies by John Westmark

The 1858 Prize for Contemporary Art, formally the Factor Prize, is a beacon of light in what can feel like the dark shoals of the philanthropic art world. In 2012, I was fortunate to win the prize and reap the rewards of a cash infusion into my studio practice. The money was great while it lasted, but far greater was the shot of adrenaline to an immeasurable nod of validation.

Over the years, I’ve discussed the legitimacy of art awards in general, and the 1858 Prize in particular, with many colleagues and other artists who have asked my opinion. While I can’t speak to the legitimacy of all the myriad organizations that promote awards for artists, I can say without reservation that the 1858 Prize is the real thing in an era where “the real thing” is a complicated definition. The charge of the 1858 Prize is simple enough: to recognize and help artists who work in, or are from, the American South; and whose work contributes to a new understanding of the South. Two very important aspects of the prize are: one, the artist’s work does not need to reference the South or Southern subjects explicitly; and secondly, the prize is open to any media. All too often, calls to artists are grouped in rigid categories by medium, effectively fragmenting or disallowing outstanding work that bridges multiple disciplines. This is a pluralist time for artists, where material boundaries no longer matter. What the good people at the 1858 Prize are saying is that they are not only open to any form of expression – they are actively seeking it out.

The diverse mix of individuals and invested parties that make the arts an unrivaled ecosystem of expression benefit greatly from arbiters like the Gibbes Museum of Art and the 1858 Prize. So, if you’re an artist from the American South, I urge you to apply to this opportunity; if you’re a patron of the arts, I urge you to get involved with this organization; and if you’re a fan of the arts, I urge you to follow and revel in the discoveries of this organization.

John Westmark, artist and guest blogger


John Westmark and family

2012 Prize winner John Westmark with his family at the opening reception of his solo exhibition

John Westmark’s work is currently on exhibit at the Gibbes Museum of Art. Westmark’s work is exhibited widely and is held in collection worldwide. He holds a BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute and an MFA from the University of Florida. In 2012, he received the Factor Prize for Southern Art, awarded by the Gibbes Museum. Westmark lives and works in Gainesville, Florida, with his wife and two daughters – the true inspiration behind his work.

The Gibbes Museum of Art and Society 1858 have announced the 2014 Short List of finalists
for the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art.

1858 Prize Short List of Finalists

The seven artists selected are Jim Arendt, Sonya Clark, Andre Leon Gray, Jackson Martin, Jason Mitcham, Damian Stamer, and Stacy Lynn Waddell. The artists were selected by a distinguished panel of judges including Charles Ailstock, Society 1858 Board Member; Jamieson Clair, Society 1858 Board Member; Jennifer Dasal, Associate Curator of Contemporary Art at the North Carolina Museum of Art; Marilyn Laufer, Director of the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University; Frank McCauley, Assistant Director and Curator of the Sumter County Gallery of Art; Pam Wall, Curator of Exhibition at the Gibbes Museum of Art; and John Westmark, artist and 2012 Prize winner.

The winner of the 1858 Prize will be announced on September 18 during an event hosted by Society 1858 and the Gibbes Museum of Art. Artists may submit applications for the 2015 1858 Prize January 1, 2015.



Mickey Bakst, 2014 James S. Gibbes Philanthropy Award Winner

Mickey Bakst

Angela Mack presenting Mickey Bakst with the 2014 James Shoolbred Gibbes Philanthropy Award at the Annual Meeting.

On Monday, May 19, the Gibbes Museum of Art presented Mickey Bakst with the 2014 James Shoolbred Gibbes Philanthropy Award at the museum’s Annual Meeting Celebration. Mickey has long been a supporter of the Gibbes, and has contributed his time, talents, connections, and energy into making the Street Party one of Charleston’s most sought-after events. Mickey is known for his graciousness, generosity, and ability to connect people, and these traits directly translate to the complex job of coordinating Charleston’s top restaurants and beverage providers for this fundraising event. “We are so grateful to have Mickey Bakst on our side. We have just wrapped up another successful Street Party, and couldn’t have done it without his support,” says Executive Director Angela Mack.

James Shoolbred Gibbes

A portrait of James Shoolbred Gibbes

James S. Gibbes Philanthropy Award – Each year the Board and staff of the CAA bestows on an individual or group the James S. Gibbes Philanthropy Award. Gibbes was deeply devoted to the betterment of Charleston’s young creative minds in the aftermath of Reconstruction. Through his 1885 bequest of $100K, which in today’s dollars is valued at $2.5M, Gibbes launched what we know today as the Gibbes Museum of Art.  His generosity and vision set the state for the visual arts in Charleston by providing the funds to build the oldest art museum in the South.

Mickey Bakst has been a staunch proponent of Charleston charities since moving to the Holy City in October 2004. A 40-year food and beverage veteran, Bakst is currently General Manager of Charleston Grill at Charleston Place Hotel. In his spare time, Bakst can be found devoting his energy to a variety of Lowcountry initiatives. His philanthropic efforts include Chefs Across America in 2002, Benefit for Katrina in 2005, and Dine for Nine in 2007. Chefs Across America followed the tragedy of 9/11 and in this event, Mickey hosted dinners in nine cities across the country with 40 of the nation’s top culinary stars. The Dine for Nine in 2007 raised more than 500,000 for the fallen firefighters’ families of the Sofa Super Store fire. When Crisis Ministries had to close down their food service one day a week, Bakst stepped in, forming a coalition to provide the meals that the shelter needed. One day a week, every year, a different area restaurant takes over the meal service and feeds more than 400 people. Three years later, Feed the Need has gone national, launching in Detroit, MI and Savannah, GA. Mickey has been married to the love of his life, Ellen, since 2007.

Amy Mercer, Marketing and Communications Manager

Prize Winners

As submissions pour in for the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art (formerly named the Factor Prize), I’ve been thinking about the individual artists from across the southeast who are submitting their work for review. Before I came on board as the marketing manager of the Gibbes Museum, I worked from home as a freelance writer and in that role I frequently submitted my work to various writing prizes. It was hard at first, getting my hopes up and being let down, but eventually the submission process became easier and I won a small prize from a publication in my home-state of Vermont. Winning was thrilling, and even though I had been writing since childhood, the prize made me feel like a “real writer.” Winning gave me the confidence to go to graduate school to earn my MFA, and I can even credit that small prize with the publication of my first book. The experience gave me the recognition and confidence to continue to pursue my writing.

Now that I am working on the other side of a prize, I’ve been curious to know whether my experience was unique or universal. I wanted to know if winning the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art affected the five artists in a similar manner. Did the prize give these artists the confidence to dig deeper in their careers? Did wining the prize help them define themselves as “real artists”? Seeking answers to these questions, I reached out to past winners to ask them to share how winning the prize has affected their career. Below you will read the answers.

Jeff Whetstone is the 2008 winner and says,

“Winning the Factor Prize in 2008 opened several new possibilities in my career. I was able to expand my approach to portraying and describing the Southern landscape and its people by moving into new mediums. I produced two short films with support of the Factor Prize that were shown at the Moving Image Art Fair and at a solo exhibition in New York. Without the funding and the broader support of the Gibbes Museum this work would have never been a reality.”

Untitled from the Passage on the Underground Railroad

Untitled from the Passage on the Underground Railroad, by Stephen Marc.

The 2009 winner, Stephen Marc, shared,

“Two of the most significant and memorable events in my life happened in the South. The first was in 1976, while running track for Pomona College when the NAIA (National Athletic Intercollegiate Association) national championship meet was held at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, AR. I became an NAIA All American, placing 2nd in the 110 meter High Hurdles. The second event was receiving this prize.”

Tobacco Blues by Radcliffe Bailey

Tobacco Blues by Radcliffe Bailey, 2010 Winner.

Radcliffe Bailey is the 2010 winner and a frequent traveler who is difficult to pin down! Bailey’s work has gained recognition in the last two years and he is best known for his mixed media works and site-specific installations that explore his personal background and the history of African Americans. Bailey’s work is included in the collections of many prestigious organizations including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the High Museum of Art, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Patrick Dougherty won the Prize in 2011. He replied,

“After 30 years of working day-in and day-out as a sculptor, I was delighted to receive the call with the news that I had been selected for the 2011 Factor Prize. I was working on a new sapling sculpture in Dayton, Ohio, when the call came and I nearly fell off the scaffolding in surprise. (…) This journey has allowed me access to a variety of organizations, an ever-changing public, and a portal to the world of ideas. Thank you for the Factor Prize and all the opportunities that it will bring.”

For John Westmark, winning the Prize was a real boost on many levels. Receiving critical acclaim has helped validate his work and has served as great personal motivation to continue pursuing his art with passion. Westmark explains, “Without opportunities and acknowledgements such as the Factor Prize, an artist runs the risk of toiling away in relative obscurity.”

John Westmark and family

2012 Prize winner John Westmark with his family at the opening reception of his solo exhibition, Narratives, at the Gibbes Museum of Art.

Westmark’s success has come full circle and on April 4, 2014, we opened a solo exhibition of his latest work titled John Westmark: Narratives. This is the first time his work is being exhibited in a museum setting and the reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. In Southern Glossary, Brad Rhines writes “Some of the most evocative paintings from this series show women on the attack, often organized in battle formations and carrying rifles or flags. The scenes are reminiscent of images from the Civil War or the American Revolution, iconic depictions of revolt. The painting Exaltation riffs on the theme of women at war, but the moment captured is more stylized.” In an article entitled “Painting feminism: Before Gibbes Museum starts renovations, a dynamic exhibit of works by John Westmark” the Post & Courier Arts Writer Adam Parker writes, “The judges were especially impressed with Westmark’s emphasis on narrative, which is in line with Southern storytelling, according to museum director Angela Mack.”

Winning the Prize has brought attention to these five artists’ work, which is exactly the point. The $10,000 cash award helps support an artist’s career, but the recognition is likely more important. I was not surprised to discover in my research that winning a prize is equally significant for writers and artists alike!

Amy Mercer, Marketing and Communications Manager, Gibbes Museum of Art

Submissions for the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art are being accepted through May 28, 2014. To submit a portfolio for consideration, please visit

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