SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — For 94 years, the Members Annual Exhibit at the South County Art Association has allowed member artists the opportunity to display and share their work with each other as well as to non-artist members and the general public, and the tradition continues this year as the gallery will launch the 94th Members Annual Gallery exhibit this Saturday, with the show running through Aug. 21.
In addition to opening the gallery, the SCAA will also host an opening event titled “Evening Under The Trees: A Celebration of Our Members” tonight from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. featuring hors d’oeuvres, cocktails and a presentation of awards by show juror and Providence Art Club Exhibits Director Michael Rose ahead of the gallery’s full opening at 7 p.m.
“The show is just a celebration,” SCAA Executive Director Kathleen Carland said. “We’re calling it a celebration of our members because it represents that. They have a chance to enter a piece, enjoy seeing others enjoy it and it’s a wonderful thing.”
For Carland, the high interest in the show among members as well as the ability to host such an opening night event is a joyous occasion after almost a year and a half of sorrow.
“We feel like we’re back from the pandemic,” Carland said. “Personally that’s how it makes me feel and I am joyful that people are eager to show their work at the Art Association. It’s a special show because of the fact that it’s probably the one show of the year where everyone who enters can exhibit.”
In that way, the show can also serve as a learning experience for artists new to displaying their work.
“The other thing that it does for people is that if they are new to exhibiting their art as a member, they can be in the show and it just gives them an opportunity to see from beginning to end what it’s like to be in an exhibit, from the entry to seeing their piece on the wall, it’s the whole process,” Carland said.
While Rose is serving as the juror for the show, he is not choosing the pieces for it, as a juror traditionally would, but rather judging which ones he thinks are most deserving of the awards and cash prizes. For Carland, she believes such shows encourage more artists, especially those who are new to exhibiting, to submit work.
“It’s a special show because of the fact that it’s probably the one show of the year where everyone who enters can exhibit, and as anyone who knows the art world knows, most exhibits are juried, meaning there’s a person who decides what goes in and what doesn’t and even though those decisions are not meant to denigrate a work, each juror has their own criteria for why they choose one over the other,” Carland said. “They might be looking for a certain synchrony within the exhibit with how things look together or they may be more partial to one type of art, so it doesn’t necessarily mean your work isn’t good if you don’t get in, but it still is a process that can be challenging for people.”
It’s that exchange of art that she really finds the beauty of the show in.
“Being able to view art and for members to be able to view one another’s art is a genuinely beautiful experience for people because they not only are able to see that other people can enjoy their work, but they are also able to enjoy other’s work and it helps them to grow as artists and it helps them to see how people reimagine the world in their medium,” Carland said. “It’s a bonding experience for people and I think the general public enjoys having a chance to see what’s possible. It’s an encouragement because everyone starts as a beginner, even Picasso, and every member might not be at the peak of their power or they’re just beginning to learn how to express themselves, but it’s all valued and it’s all appreciated.”
With Rose as juror, Carland said the SCAA knows they have someone with a vast knowledge of the Rhode Island art scene.
“We respect Michael because we know he is a great art appreciator,” Carland said. “He is an appraiser. He is also very well spoken and communicates well so we thought he would be a perfect person... He has such a broad visual appreciation of art in the state of Rhode Island in general that he brings a lot to the work that he’s doing everyday when he’s in the Providence Art Club oh, so that translates to being a perfect person to talk about art in the community.”
As juror, Rose will be selecting nine awards, all of which are $100 cash prizes, as well as three honorable mentions. The categories, many of which are named after past members, are the Ann Lewis Parker Award for Best Watercolor, Lorenzo and Elizabeth Kinney Award for Best Floral- Any Medium, Dorcas Toney Award for Best Functional Pottery, Visconti Sculpture Award, Mary Ann Carney Award for Pottery, Best Photograph, Best Oil/Acrylic, Best Drawing, Print or Pastel and Best Mixed Media, Collage or Assemblage.
Additionally, gallery attendees will be able to vote in gallery for people’s choice awards for the duration of the gallery. The awards will be announced following the exhibit’s run, which ends Aug. 21.
Tickets for “Evening Under The Trees: A Celebration of Our Members” are available for sale on the SCAA’s website, southcountyart.org. Tickets are $25 for current members and $40 for non-members and guests.
The SCAA is located at the historic Helme House at 2587 Kingstown Rd. in Kingston and the gallery is open Wednesday through Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Their next exhibit, The Great Art Heist, debuts Aug. 26 and runs through Sept. 17, with the art heist event itself taking place on Sept. 18.
For more information, visit southcountyart.org.