90th Michigan Regional Exhibition unites local artists, creates communities

<p>Best of Show winner Brian Caponi's " class="catboxphoto" />

Best of Show winner Brian Caponi's "The Window" hangs within the Muskegon Museum of Art for the 90th Michigan Regional Exhibition. The piece will be on display with 146 other pieces of art until Nov. 7.  Courtesy / Muskegon Museum of Art

Jenny Adkins

A variety of Michigan artists gathered inside the Muskegon Museum of Art on Sept. 6 for the opening ceremony of the 90th Michigan Regional Exhibition. The Regional featured the works of 150 Michigan-based artists selected by Juror Marc Mitchell throughout the exhibit.

“The exhibition is one of the only shows to unite and recognize a wide range of local artists within one show,” said Senior Curator Art Martin. “The show, which features artists from a diverse range of skill levels and choices of medium, attempts to capture and feature a summation the local art scene.

“(The Regional) is our way to recognize that in our community we have creative visual artists continuing to work to make work, and this becomes a platform for all of them at any number of levels to show and share their work. They may not be in a place for a solo show, but one very fine piece can give them some recognition.”

The opening ceremony also featured art that won several cash awards, such as Best of Show winner “The Window” by Rochester Hills, Mich. artist Brian Caponi. The piece, which is made up of 16 total sheets of porcelain circles, was praised for its creative use of the medium and “light, ethereal” direction. 

The pieces in the show, including “The Window,” were narrowed down from 658 individual entries by Mitchell. An assistant professor at the University of Arkansas, curator and artist himself, Martin said Mitchell was selected because of his vast knowledge in the field.

“We typically look for a juror with a broad range of experience,” Martin said. “With (Mitchell), we have someone who is in the practice, teaches the practice and also has a really rich aesthetic experience to draw from.”

Throughout its many years, Martin said the Regional has seen artists come and go for many reasons, but others stay and submit work for many years in a row. For the artists especially, the Regional is a chance for their work to be reviewed by jurors from around the country.

“Because we have a juror who is outside of the area and who doesn’t know any of our (local) artists, for (the artists), that becomes a great acknowledgement,” Martin said. “Year after year, it doesn’t matter who the juror is, their work consistently stands out.”

“The Regional also serves to bring these artists together, effectively creating a community of local creative minds,” Martin said. “Not only that, but artists will connect with the West Michigan community through the exhibitions Meet the Artist event Sept. 27, where winning artists will host a walk-and-talk with guests.

“(Meet the Artist is) a chance that artists don’t usually have to get out in front of their audience and talk about how they work, how they think and inspirations for their piece. It’s a chance for the audience to… meet the artist, learn about the piece and build (a) connection.”

With the Regional’s reputation for being an acclaimed showcase of local art, Martin said that it also serves as away to encourage artists to keep creating on a competitive level. With the future ahead, Martin hopes that each exhibition will inspire other local artists to submit unique, dynamic work.

“It’s our way of challenging our artists,” Martin said. “(We) say, ‘Make work that gets attention.’ Here are things that consistently get in. What can you do differently? How can you challenge yourself? How can you be stronger in your practice so we can get you to a point that you make work that people find interesting?”