WILSON, N.C. — Barton College will welcome students from across the state to celebrate their creativity at the annual Scholastic Art Awards ceremony scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 3. This marks the 35th year that Barton College has served as host and regional sponsor for the National Scholastic Art Awards for the Eastern/Central North Carolina Region. The featured speaker for the awards ceremony is Ben Bridgers, a formally trained painter who joined the Barton College art faculty in fall 2012 as an associate professor of art.

Following an ice cream social for Gold Key awardees and their families in Wilson Gymnasium on the Barton campus at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, there will be an awards presentation for the award recipients beginning at 2 p.m. The ceremony is open to student Gold Key Award recipients, their families, and North Carolina arts teachers and principals. The Scholastic Art Awards Exhibition will be available for public viewing in the Barton Art Galleries beginning Monday, Feb. 4.

Originally from the Southeast, Bridgers has spent the past 20 years living in various regions of the United States and Italy. One of the most influential periods for him was during his residence in the western region of the United States, primarily The Badlands of Southern California, from 2002 – 2012. As one of the nation’s epicenters of unemployment and financial ruin, this region is where he spent countless hours searching foreclosed and abandoned properties for empty swimming pools for the simple purpose of riding a skateboard. As a result, elements of economic desolation and the hard inland landscape followed Bridgers back to his studio and began occupying space in his work.

Long before Bridgers began studying fine art, he found his passion in skateboarding. In the pages of “Thrasher Skateboard Magazine” and various independent “zines,” he lived vicariously through the skateboarders captured in still frames of the magazine photos and through the flowing segments of low budget videos produced in the mid to late 1980s. The crude documentation of the youth subcultures, centered on punk music and skateboarding, formed an early aesthetic for Bridgers that merged with classical painting techniques that he began to study while taking solo trips to regional museums and galleries.

After earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Painting from Barton College in 1995, Bridgers completed a Master of Fine Arts degree in Painting and Drawing from the University of Georgia’s Lamar Dodd School of Art in 1999. He has held several academic appointments at universities throughout the United States and Italy. Most recently, he joined the faculty at Barton College in 2012 as an Associate Professor of Art. He currently makes his home in Durham where he also has an art studio. Bridgers’ work has been exhibited in various galleries and museums at national and international levels and is held in both public and private collections in the United States, Italy, and Japan.

Entries from all 50 states are submitted for competition in the nationally renowned Scholastic Art Awards program. The program, created for middle and high school students, is designed to encourage student achievement, to recognize and applaud our fine art teachers and to emphasize the importance of the visual arts in the school curriculum. Barton College is proud to host the Eastern/Central Regional District in North Carolina, representing 62 counties from the piedmont to the coast.

Contributors to the program include the Visual Arts Department of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, the Wilson Chamber of Commerce, Stan Corbett of Corbett Reproductions, Framer’s Alley of Elm City, Blick Art Materials, Jerry’s Artarama, and the Offices of Admissions and Institutional Advancement at Barton College.

Dr. Norval C. Kneten, president of Barton College, and Mark F. Gordon, director of The Eastern/Central North Carolina Region of The Scholastic Art Awards Program, will bring brief remarks during the program. Matt Fussell of the Scholastic Art Awards Regional Teacher Advisory Committee, will present special awards to student recipients.

The Scholastic Art Awards entries for the Eastern/Central North Carolina Region are received at Barton College during the first week of January. This year, there were 2,123 artwork entries and an additional 78 portfolios from 147 schools presented for judging. Students, through their teachers, submitted artwork in a variety of categories, including: architecture, comic art, ceramics & glass, digital art, product design, drawing, fashion, film & animation, jewelry, mixed media, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture, video games, and art portfolio. Jurors are charged to select entries that they consider especially worthy of recognition.

The Eastern/Central North Carolina Region has an advisory committee composed of nine art teachers. This year, the exhibition selection jury was composed of college professors, museum educators, and professional artists.

Two hundred and eighty-two artworks were selected as Gold Key awards for the exhibition as well as seven Gold Key portfolios. Digital images of these finalist art works will be sent to New York City for judging against other regional winners for the national exhibition held in June at the Corcoran Gallery, Washington, D.C. Also sent to New York will be the works of five American Vision Award (Best of Show) nominees, including: Blair Torres, grade 12, Cardinal Gibbons High School; Bailey Powell, grade 12, University of North Carolina School of the Arts; Meredith Miller, grade 12, Western Alamance High School (twice nominated); Daniela Agostini, grade 11, Wilson Visual Arts Academy.

There also were 447 Silver Key Awards, five Silver Key portfolios, and 497 Honorable Mention Awards chosen from the individual entries submitted. A list of award recipients and images of their artwork is available on the Barton Art Galleries’ web site at http://www.barton.edu/galleries/scholastic-art-awards

From the Gold Key artworks, the jury also selected works for additional regional awards to be presented at the ceremony including the Barton College Award to: Aliza Weintraub, grade 12, Athens Drive High School; “The Wilson Times” Award to Caroline Reed, grade 11,Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools Career Center; the North Carolina Art Education Association Award to Christina Gibbons, grade 12, Cardinal Gibbons High School; the North Carolina Student Excellence Award to Blair Torres, grade 12, Cardinal Gibbons High School; the Emerging Vision Award to Ally Majestic, grade 8, Cardinal Gibbons High School; Jurors’ Choice Portfolio to Elizabeth Woodson, grade 12, Western Alamance High School; the Edward C. Brown Award, which honors the long-time director of the Barton Scholastics Program, to Rachel Pendergrass, grade 12,University of North Carolina School of the Arts, and the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Recycled Materials Award, a new award this year, to Dylan Mintz, grade 8, Roland-Grise Middle School.

Blick Art Materials donated a $200 merchandise voucher for classroom materials, given to Michael Burroughs of Cardinal Gibbons High School, teacher of the Emerging Vision Award recipient. Jerry’s Artarama in Raleigh donated a $200 gift certificate awarded to Elizabeth Woodson, recipient of the Jurors’ Choice Portfolio Award.

The exhibition will run from Feb. 3 – Feb. 22 in the Barton Art Galleries located in Case Art Building. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. and by special appointment. For additional information, please contact Mark Gordon, at 252-399-6474 or the Barton Art Galleries at 252-399-6477.

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