Judging Culture Shapers Art Show

It was a pleasure to judge the Culture Shapers art show this year. I am not really sure how many years they have been doing this, I just know I have been there from the beginning even before there was a sculpture category. This is a wonderful show for students. With $5,000 prize going to the top contestant in each category it is wonderful exposure for the students.

My judging partners this year were Richard Fielden and Ben Woitena I don’t know about the other judges but I look forward to our time of sharing each year as much as I look forward to the judging.

For those not familiar with the process there were 112 sculpture pieces. Each of the three judges is given yellow post-it’s and we are to choose those pieces that we want to advance. Because each of the three judges is given a post-it packet of 25 we hardly use all of ours. Frankly we tend to agree on the pieces that make the cut.

I continue to say each year, if you did not make the cut, please do not get discouraged. Judging is often subjective and what might not make it in one show might make it in another show. One other suggestion I always tell students is that they must push the work. Often young artists want to “just get something done to put in the show.” You can tell the difference between those works of art and others. Those that advance are ones that continue to grow and change with the process. They are also finished. Always, always go the extra effort with presentation. If you complete a work and glue it to an ugly base or don’t take the extra time and effort to bring it to its completion it shows.

I always like to read the descriptions. Another suggestion is to think this out. The artwork and the piece of paper are the only reflections that we have of the artist. I’d write my coments on another piece of paper and then neatly transfer it to your page, or better yet type it. Don’t forget to proof your sheet. As someone who struggled with grammar and spelling my entire life (but later became a writer) I would not judge an art piece by the student’s ability to spell, but another judge might!

Sometimes comments on this sheet sell me on the art. If you can share some information about our emotional experience with the piece or the difficulty of the process it helps us in the judging and might help in your advancement. Please avoid comments like, “I did this cause I had to come up with something.” Your lack of interest reflects on the work. Even if I liked a piece I might look it over because of the attitude connected with it.

After our first round of cuts we are each a packet of only 5 post-its to place on the pieces we want to advance to the final round. This is the hard part and I often wish I could turn in yellow post-its in the previous section for pink ones at this part of the judging. I was surprised to see that one of the pieces we all thought was strong was disqualified because of copyright concerns. Please be careful of this. If you are unsure of copyright ask you instructors.

If you did not advance into the final round I must say there were two other pieces that I labored over wanting to put in that final round, yours might just have been one of those two, but alas I only had 5 pink post-its.

Each judge is chosen because of our different expertise and experience. It shows in the final selection of 15 pieces. Sometimes I find myself wishing someone would have voted on something else, but then each had their 5 post-its.

These pieces are pulled from the rest and set on tables for us to view.
This year we got to discuss the pieces. I really pushed for this part of the judging process. Up to this point we are not allowed to talk. I must say I have to rely on my fellow judges when it comes to certain type of sculpture. It may be a process that I am not familiar with and I look to them to tell me the difficulty or to help me understand the piece. Also because there are so many pieces you might not really “see” a sculpture until this moment. I still remember the one-year there was the piece of the baby in the box. I am sorry I do not know who did it. At first glance it was nothing, but after you looked at the piece, I mean really looked at it, it grew on you and you began to realize the thought that was put into it. That is what this time is for, to bring to light the parts of apiece that the other judges might not see.

After this we sit down with each piece and score it. This is difficult because you hate to give a low score to someone who has come this far. I mean they made it in the finals and that is a huge achievement. I am forced to put low scores on some because… well there are pieces that are just better, in my opinion, and I want to see them advance. After this is done the administration takes our numbers and puts the final 15 in the order of our numbering. We then get to move the pieces, with very designated rules as to how far they can move. This is where the fighting begins. Not really fight, we just all firmly believe in “our” favorites and want to see them advance. All three judges have to agree on a piece moving. So we talk it out. When we all feel good about the order we are done. The entire process today took about 7 hours of judging including our breakfast and lunch.

As always I wish there was more involvement between students and judges, maybe a judges evening were students could come and see samples of the judges work and ask questions to a panel.

My congratulations to all of the students involved in Culture Shapers. Please feel free to keep in touch with me throughout the year. I can be found at https://creativesculpture.com. There is a forum there where students can post questions if they like.

Keep creating!

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