April 16 2010

Student wins grand prize in national art competition

National competition is sponsored by Volkswagen and VSA arts. After Smithsonian, exhibit will tour nationally for two years

Old Lyme, Conn. ─ Niamh Butler, 20, a junior at Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts, has been awarded the grand prize in a national competition for emerging artists. Her winning painting, entitled “Satori,” is currently on display at the “Accelerate” exhibition, which opened Sept. 10 at the S. Dillon Ripley Center of the Smithsonian Institution. The exhibition runs through Jan. 6, 2010 in Washington D.C., and will be followed by a two-year, nationwide tour.

Selected from 236 submissions, 15 recipients from across the country — including Butler — were awarded a total of $60,000 and honored during a reception on Capitol Hill held Sept. 17.

The exhibition is sponsored by VSA arts with generous support from the Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. VSA arts sent more than 20,000 calls for entry to high schools and colleges around the country, inviting submissions that illustrate the theme “Accelerate.”

Participants were requested to dwell on the many personal reasons that accelerate the desire to create ─ to better understand, to investigate and discover, to escape, to hone attention and skill, to reflect on a memory, or to express emotion.

Butler initially turned to art in an attempt to better understand the world around her, and discovered that drawing and painting allowed her to get to know her subjects in a unique way. She finds her artistic concentration in the details. Butler works primarily in graphite and oil paint.

The collaboration of the two sponsors supports these artists at a critical time when many are deciding whether to pursue the arts as a career. The program validates ─ and helps finance ─ that life-defining choice.

The work chosen for the exhibition was selected by a distinguished jury, including William A. Newman, artist and professor at the Corcoran College of Art and Design; Sarah Tanguy, independent curator and critic; and Charles Riley, professor at the Weissman School of Arts & Sciences at Baruch College, SUNY, and curator and co-founder of WeMedia.

“The S. Dillon Ripley Center is located at 1100 Jefferson Drive, SW, Washington, D.C., and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., except Dec. 25. Admission is free. For more information about the center, call 202-633-1000.

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