Annual Lights and Shadows kicks off

Samantha Vise, Staff Writer

The annual “Lights and Shadows” juried art competition is back at the University of North Alabama. The competition is hosted by the School of the Arts (SOTA) and held in the Elaine Bailey Augustine Art Gallery on campus. 

The competition features student work made in many different mediums by students of all classifications. 

“All mediums are mixed together. We have paintings, drawings, ceramics, sculptures and 3D designs. We like to have a bit of everything,” said Professor Chiong-Yiao Chen, the university’s gallery director. 

Aside from the Senior Art Exhibition, which only features work by senior students, “Lights and Shadows” is the only art show on campus that spotlights student work. 

“Most of this work is submitted by sophomores, some even by freshmen. The show is definitely an opportunity for undergraduate students to show off their work,” Chen said.

Chen intended to open the show towards the end of January, but due to a lack of submissions, the show’s opening has been delayed. She has extended the submission deadline twice in an attempt to get as many diverse pieces as possible. 

“We have all different levels of art. We don’t discriminate against grade level or skill level. Some of these artists aren’t even art majors; they’re art minors or they’ve just taken some classes here for fun,” said Coven Dickey, the gallery assistant. 

Students are encouraged by SOTA to submit any artwork from their classes at UNA. Submissions opened right before winter break, and the department has been hard at work preparing the gallery for the exhibition. 

“The hardest part of setting up the show has been the lighting and positioning the pedestals. There are so many different sculptures to set up, and it’s hard balancing all the sides. You want everything to be balanced so you don’t favor any particular artist or skill level. We want it to be truly random and dispersed,” Dickey said.

Dickey is also a student artist at UNA and has some of her own pieces in the show. 

“It’s fun to see my art on the walls. Usually students don’t get that. It’s either the teacher’s work or another artist, so it’s cool to see student work on the walls. My favorite part of the entire show is seeing it all come together at the end. It’s all good art, so it all looks good together,” Dickey said. 

For Dickey, “Lights and Shadows” is less about the competition and more about showing off the work itself. The show gives students an opportunity to display what they have been working on, and for most of them, it’s the first time they will ever see their work hung on the walls. 

“It’s been pretty interesting seeing other people’s skill levels and what they value in their own work. People put in their best work, and it’s interesting to see what people gravitate towards within their own collections,” Dickey said. 

In the past, the competition was judged only by UNA art professors, but Chen has now left the competition primarily up to the students. 

“It’s called the Exhibitor’s Choice Award. The students participating in the show can vote for their three most favorite pieces, and we get a juror from our side to select a winner from those votes. We invited senior scholars, who are older artists who come back to participate in the show – they’re not actually in the competition. We want them to be part of our community,” Chen said. 

The winning artist will receive a $500 grand prize and their art may be purchased by the university’s art collector to add to the student collection. Second prize is $300, and there will be multiple Merit Awards of $100 each. 

Chen hopes that the competition will grow and inspire students to keep making art. She wants to collect as much art as possible for the university’s collection so that future students will have alumni artists to look up to. 

The “Lights and Shadows” juried art competition opens Feb.13 and will remain open until the end of the month.