The John A. Day Gallery is currently home to many pieces of art created by USD students, which range from printwork and paintings to sculptures and videos.
The 30th annual Stilwell Student Awards Exhibition opened on Jan. 27 and will continue until Feb. 24.
“The purpose of the Stilwell is to highlight USD art students,” said Michelle St. Vrain, interim director of the gallery.
St. Vrain said each year they invite a juror to select from all pieces submitted by students to create an exhibition. From the pieces selected, the juror chooses which ones receive awards including best of show, honorable mentions, the Gladys Stilwell Freshman/Sophomore award, merit awards and the faculty award.
Michael Petersen, the principal and founding partner 50,000 Feet, a creative agency in Chicago, IL, was this year’s juror.
Petersen picked from 250 pieces narrowed them down to 105 pieces, St. Vrain said.
“I really love how this exhibition highlights not only USD students, but the diversity in the department,” St. Vrain said. “I think it highlights all of the educational ranges from freshmen to third-year master’s student.”
Nickolas Baltz, a senior fine arts major with an emphasis in printmaking, was awarded best of show.
“Being a printmaker, I know a lot of different types of paper,” Baltz said. “So as soon as I was holding the piece of paper, I thought, ‘Wow this paper is really, really nice!’”
Getting his piece selected into the exhibition and winning the $500 award was unbelievable, Baltz said, especially because he thought his piece seemed so simple.
Baltz said at the time he was in the studio just trying to get anything on paper because he was experiencing an “art drought.”
“This is what got me back into making and creating artwork,” Baltz said.
Baltz looks at art as an outlet that he uses as a catharsis, he said. Art calms him and stresses him out, he added.
“If you don’t love your craft, I don’t think it’s something you should be doing,” he said. “I don’t think I would love anything else as much as I do art because I have already put in my 10,000 hours.”
Dillon Bryant, a junior fine arts major with an emphasis in printmaking and photography, had three pieces in the exhibition and received a merit award for one of them.
Bryant said he likes art because of the way it allows him to communicate.
“It allows me to bring different thoughts and expressions in one way,” Bryant said. “Plus, it’s everywhere.”
Bryant said the Stilwell exhibition allows students to show off their best work to a lot of people.
“A lot of times we spend so much time in the studio working that we forget that what we are doing this for is to show off our work and learn to be professional students and artists,” he said. “So having these opportunities is so important.”
This exhibition is also an opportunity for art students to sell their pieces.
Keith Braveheart, a second-year graduate student, was one person whose art was purchased. Braveheart also won the faculty award, which came with a stipend of $100.
He said if he could give advice to undergraduate artists, it would be to never take it for granted.
“Be sincere with what you do,” Braveheart said. “Always look at what you do as a gift and never take advantage of it.”
Baltz encouraged other artists to do what they love and follow their passion.
“I cannot stress enough for people to do the Stilwell and keep creating artwork,” he said.