story and photos by Brittany Ransom
The Fort Smith Regional Art Museum (RAM) welcomed a packed house on Thursday (June 5) evening, as it hosted the opening reception for the 66th Annual River Valley Invitational exhibit. With a theme of "personal landscapes," this year's event focused on the idea of "home" and how it represents different things to different people.
Forty three artists participated in this year's invitational, ranging both in age and skill level. A wide-variety of mediums were used in the submissions, including traditional oil paintings and modern three-dimensional statues and installations.
The invitational is a national competitive exhibition that has been hosted by the Fort Smith Regional Art Museum since its inception in 1948. Pieces included in the exhibit were available for sale, with proceeds benefiting participating artists and RAM’s exhibitions and educational programs.
"RAM is proud to have the opportunity to promote and encourage professional artists," said Lee Ortega, RAM executive director. "This invitational is a long standing tradition that goes back to when RAM was a small art center. This is one of the most highly anticipated exhibitions we have held, and any money raised from this fundraiser will help us reach our goals in 2015.”
During the reception, Ortega announced the winners of the invitational and explained the breakdown of the prize awards. First place and a $1,000 cash prize was awarded to Dawn Holder for her porcelain installation, "Suburban Lawn Iteration III." Jeanne Vockroth won second place and $500 for her three-dimensional boat piece, entitled "Fathers." Sabine Schmidt took home third and a $300 cash prize for "Carver Monument Walkway." As the first place winner, Holder will also receive a solo show at RAM in 2015.
Ortega also informed guests that the "People's Choice Award" category had been added this year, giving visitors the chance to vote for their favorite piece during the course of the exhibition. The winner will be announced on Facebook in September at the conclusion of the exhibit. One piece will also be selected for the "Purchase Award" and bought by RAM to add to its permanent collection.
Also showing at the exhibit was 2013 River Valley Invitational winner, Carol Dickie. Titled "An Artist's Journey," the collection showcased more than 30 of Dickie's works, including pieces from her early career, as well as several recently completed paintings.
The reception jumpstarts what will be a busy summer at the Regional Art Museum. In addition to its regular exhibits and workshops, RAM will host art camps for area youth July 22-26. Participants ages 4-6 will explore art basics through games, scavenger hunts, and hands-on activities for the "It’s an Art pARTy!" sessions. Students ages 7-13 will enjoy "Paper Making Fun," where they will create their own book inspired by art on view.
The invitational exhibit will be on display through Sept. 14. RAM is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m.