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’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.
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.