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1858 Prize Finalists

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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 1858prize.org. 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 gibbesmuseum.org/events or call 843.722.2706 x21

Check out my blog about the prize on Charleston Grit!

Amy Coy, Society 1858 President and Guest Blogger

Published August 1, 2014

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