On Sunday, Feb. 13, Providence Art Club opened its College Scholarship Exhibition at the Club’s Dodge House Gallery. The exhibition, on display through March 4, features work made by students from colleges across Rhode Island.
The exhibition accepted submissions from any college sophomores and juniors in Rhode Island. After receiving nearly 50 submissions, the gallery chose 28 to display, said Gallery Manager Michael Rose, who was responsible for selecting the works.
“We're looking for things that are kind of novel and interesting and different, and with students, you get a lot of that,” Rose said. Equally important in determining which pieces were displayed was whether “you can see in the work that the artist achieved what they were aiming for,” he added. The gallery also considered how well a work would fit in with the larger collection.
Apart from the competitive selection process, planning the exhibition took place without much challenge, Rose said. “All the schools were really supportive … and a lot of faculty were encouraging their students to apply.”
The 2022 exhibition is the second College Scholarship Exhibition hosted by the Club; the first was held in 2019. “The main goal is really to do a better job of engaging with students at local colleges,” Rose said. “We often find that students, especially at Brown and (the Rhode Island School of Design), will spend four years here and maybe never step foot in the art club.”
The exhibition also aims to provide students with a platform to display their work. “Last time we did it, a number of the students who were in the show said that it was their first time (having artwork) in a professional gallery exhibition,” he added. “So to give artists that first opportunity is really cool.”
Student artist Jaden Bleier ’23 is among the students displaying their work in a gallery for the first time. Her piece, “The Kissing of Powdered Asses at a Picnic,” features friends on a picnic blanket and comprises a collage of make-up, ink, brown paper bags and images from The College Hill Independent.
In particular, Bleier was excited about the exposure to other student artists in 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 RISD sophomore, showcased a piece called “Beholder,” an oil painting that portrays Indigenous themes of empowerment. The portrait focuses on the expression of an Indigenous girl during a moment of uncertainty. The painting ties into his broader work, Cocozza said, which shows cultural celebration through portraiture.
In addition to featuring artwork in the exhibit, the Club provides the first-place award winner of the show the opportunity to display their work in a solo exhibition next year, along with a $1,000 award. As announced on Sunday, the winner was Crickett Fisher, a Rhode Island College student. Second place went to Onaje Grant-Simmonds ’24, who won $500 in cash prizes. RISD student Regina Gutierrez earned the third-place award.
Grant-Simmonds’ award-winning work, “The first tribe: Primordial Origins,” was a part of his ongoing surrealist series called “Fauna.” The piece, which used oils, acrylic and colored pencil mounted on wood, was inspired by Sigmund Freud. “He had this really kooky origin story of human society, which I found problems in, but in a funny way I almost found that to be an interesting myth in itself — even though he was against myths and religion, he created one (despite) claiming to be a scientist,” Grant-Simmonds said. His work is a commentary on Freud’s “myth,” but is “filled with (his) own characters and motifs.”
“Especially considering how great the rest of the art (in the exhibition) was, I’m really honored,” Grant-Simmonds wrote in a message to The Herald about winning the second-place award. “It feels like a great start to my professional career.”
The collection of student work was well-received by some gallery members: “The whole show is very impressive (with) the variety and the talent,” remarked Providence Art Club member Cynthia Spencer.
The success of the exhibit was evident from both the curation of a diverse range of works and the large turnout on the opening day. Among other shows, the Club also plans to host an additional “community invitational exhibition” in August featuring several Rhode Island artists who are not members of the club.