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Several McMurry University artist students received awards in the annual Intercollegiate Art Competition, a juried exhibit of artwork by students from Abilene colleges and universities, at the Center for Contemporary Art in downtown Abilene. The works were on display from January 7 – February 22, 2014.

Eric Britt, a studio art major who graduated in December, won Best of Show with a piece about President John F. Kennedy from his senior show and Christian Palmer, a senior double major in studio art and theater from Abilene, won first prize in 3-D with his ceramic torso. Keith Waggoner, a junior English major from Abilene, won third place in photography. Three other McMurry art students were also featured in the show- Rebecca Schneller, Jessica C Williams and Song Brown.

The Center for Contemporary Arts hosted its inaugural Intercollegiate Student Art Competition in the fall of 2008. The January-February 2014 exhibit is the fifth one held since it’s inception. The competition is open to art students from the five Abilene-area colleges and universities: Abilene Christian University, Cisco College, Hardin-Simmons University, McMurry University, and Texas State Technical College. It provides an opportunity for students to compete to exhibit their work in a professional gallery as well as to earn cash prizes. Cash awards are given for the first place entry in each of four categories: 2-D, 2-D/Digital Art, 3-D, and Photography, as well as to the entry judged Best of Show. Submissions are juried by a panel of the Center’s Signature Artist Members who select the entries for exhibition and the winners in each category.

“This is a real learning experience for these students. They have to prepare their artwork for display according to professional standards, they have to compete for gallery space, and they have to think about what kinds of artwork a particular gallery or museum is looking for — in our case, contemporary art, art that is thought-provoking and speaks to our time,” said The Center’s Gallery Manager Debbie Manns.  “The Center uses this competition to scout emerging talent for future exhibitions and encourages student artists to become Emerging Artist Members at the Center to gain additional professional experience.

Russell Ellison, a long-time Signature Artist Member at the Center for Contemporary Arts, who first initiated the idea of the competition, explained the concept behind the contest.

“I had wanted to do this for several years as I felt it was so important to mentor young artists and young artists traditionally do not have opportunities to exhibit. As a young artist and former art teacher I remember how important it was to get your work in an exhibit and the Intercollegiate addresses this. Musicians want to perform, theater people want to act, writers want to publish, and artists want to exhibit. Many of these young artists will be members of communities throughout the country, and being a part of what we do at the Center teaches these students to be involved in community. Every serious art student wants to show their work, and having the CCA offering an exhibition provides this opportunity.”