By Tia Sprengel, Editor-In-Chief

From Tuesday, Feb. 5 till Thursday, Feb. 21, Illinois Wesleyan University’s Merwin and Wakeley Galleries will be hosting the 26th Annual Juried Student Art Exhibition.

A yearly exposition that allows students to showcase their artwork, the Student Art Exhibition held its opening ceremony on Tuesday, Feb. 5 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., garnering acclaim from faculty and students alike.

“For me, part of making art is sharing the final product. It is so important that Illinois Wesleyan and the community at large recognize the talent of our students,” said Carmen Lozar, the director of the Merwin and Wakeley Galleries. “This exhibition highlights the best works of the students in the Ames School of Art.”

“My favorite aspect of the Student Art Exhibit is seeing the artwork from first-years, sophomores, juniors and seniors all in one exhibit. New work is always exciting to look at, and it is interesting to see how others have changed during our time at IWU,” said junior William Frank, who won both a Gallery award and the Memorial Center Purchase Award.

Each year, the Student Art Exhibit also presents awards to students. Awards are given by faculty, alumni, certain departments on campus and even President Richard Wilson.

This year, 16 awards were given to students for pieces ranging from paintings to enamel on glass shadow boxes.

Senior Dustin Springer was the recipient of this year’s President Award for his painting, Opulence Gold.

“This year, the show was high in number and in quality,” President Richard Wilson said. “My wife and I found ourselves having to choose from several very interesting works of art in a variety of media.

“Ultimately, we picked Dustin’s painting because of the realistic appearance of the model, gorgeous use of color and the inclusion of unexpected objects and markings to add complexity to what normally would have been a fairly straight-forward portrait.”

Other awards include the Director’s Award, two Mayo Alumni Purchase Award, the Sipich Alumni Purchase Award, the National Hall Residence Honorary Purchase Award, the Memorial Center Purchase Award, two Gallery awards and seven Faculty Selection for an Outstanding Work of Art awards.

Aside from Springer, students who received awards this year include Frank, senior Leeya Rose Jackson, sophomore Devon Redlin, junior Annastasia Calvert, junior Robert Frank III, first-year Justice Macklin, senior Riley Blindt, junior Abigail Szunyogh, junior Erica Messerschmidt, senior Phillip Johnson and junior Emilee Seevers.

While the awards and the accompanying ceremony are exciting, they are not the primary focus of the show. Both faculty and students can’t stress enough the deeper significance of the Student Art Exhibit.

“The exhibit opens up communication between the students in the School of Art,” Lozar said. “Oftentimes, artists are sequestered to their studios and have little idea what their neighbor is creating right next door. The student show is a great way to build dialogue between our students with the added bonus of seeing their works in a well-lit and beautiful space.”

“The Student Art Exhibition is immensely important because it shows that we exist,” said Robert Frank III, who won the Director’s Award as well as the Memorial Center Purchase Award this year. “We are in our studios 24/7 working on our assignments and surviving on coffee.  It’s nice to see our hard work on display.  Hopefully it will inspire other students in whatever they do, even if it isn’t art related.”