On an evening in late May, neighbors Ken Saunders and Echt galleries were packed with collectors, students and artists for the joint 8th Annual Emerging Artists Exhibit, hosted by the Midwest Contemporary Glass Art Group (MCGAG). The show included students from area colleges; the University of Wisconsin, Madison (UWM), Southern Illinois University (SIU), Carbondale and Illinois State University, Bloomington/Normal (ISU). The show took place in the west-loop gallery district of Chicago where Ken Saunders hosted the undergraduate show and Echt Gallery hosted the graduate students.
The collection of emerging artists boasted a large range of work including sensual venetian forms, hot sculpted vignettes, cut and polished abstract sculpture, neon animal sculpture, cast busts and fused plates. Although there was a wide range of techniques, the craftsmanship of the work, as noted several times throughout the night, was exceptional. Most of the artist were present at the show, giving the collectors and opportunity to meet them and discuss their work. Bruce Bendoff, member of MCGAG explained, “it’s great for these students to get in front of collectors, we hope that this helps them gain exposure, and propel them forward in their careers.”
Many of the students were enthusiastic about their pieces and although the show was only up for two hours, a few walked away with sales. The undergraduate work, which tended to be object based, and fit into the Ken Saunders Gallery seamlessly. The graduate work, which was more ambitious, and suffered from the cramped space and spot lighting at Echt Gallery, which was designed to light discrete glass objects. These artists needed more control over the space to properly set up their installation-based work.
Karen Echt, who started the Emerging Artist Exhibit, 8 years ago, before MCGAG took it over, noted that the installation experience was invaluable to students: “It’s really good for them to have a gallery experience, because most of them never have, it helps them understand what is involved and makes it more approachable for them.”
Steve Feren, head of the glass department at University of Wisconsin, has been participating the show for two years. He commented: “It’s a great opportunity, we present it to the students in the fall, so that they have something to work towards throughout the year.” During the opening the MCGAG handed out three $750 awards, two of which their honored former members. The judging was for collectors, gallerists and local artists, who selected their favorite work in each category.
Jamie Marrow, from ISU was awarded the undergraduate student award as well as the Collector’s Choice. The graduate student award went to Jing Li from SIU. Although the focus on the show seemed to be on profession practice, Feren also noted, “ you can’t make work just for the show, you have to make that you love, then try to sell it, if you can do that, then it’s a good experience.”