GRAND RAPIDS – In late March, more than 100 high school seniors walked into Ferris State University’s Kendall College of Art and Design carrying three pieces of their best artwork. By the end of the day, 16 of the students walked out with thousands of dollars to help pay for their Kendall education.
The annual Art Day Scholarship Competition drew a total of 140 students from seven states and Washington, D.C., to compete for $208,000 in art scholarships ranging from $10,000 to $20,000 each. Prospective students were asked to bring three pieces of visual art that demonstrate both technical and conceptual skills, and a panel of Kendall instructors convened within closed doors to review the work and select the winners.
“Art Day is probably my favorite day of the year. We see some great work that day, and it’s a good exercise for everyone who takes part,” said Kris Jones, a Kendall admissions counselor. “When you’re willing to put yourself out there and reveal your work, it tends to build confidence. Even if you don’t win, you can learn just by taking the risk.”
The event was open to all high school seniors interested in attending Kendall, but the work had to be submitted in person.
“When the students show up, they have an hour or so to look around, see other people’s work, and get an idea of how their skills and ideas stack up,” Jones said. “Because they’re all high school seniors, it’s as much of an even playing field as possible. For most of them, it’s encouraging and humbling at the same time, as they see extraordinary work and think, ‘Wow, that’s what someone can do with paint. I never knew that.’ By the time the door shuts for the judging, all their nerves are firing.”
Every year, Kendall faculty members volunteer to judge the event. This year’s jurors were Photography professor Adam DeKraker, Painting professor Boyd Quinn, Sculpture and Functional Art chair Jaimie Watson, and Graphic Design professor Jason Alger. The judges reviewed the art together and gradually narrowed the field to 16 artists.
Student entries included a wide array of work from traditional drawings to paintings, 3-D sculptures, fashion, photos, design and video.
“The caliber of this year’s entries was quite high. The jurors were impressed with the technical and conceptual diversity showcased by students at the high school level,” DeKraker said. “Several pieces were well-constructed and brought to completion, and many were presented on a professional level. During our first walk-through, we were exclaiming, ‘Wow,’ ‘Look at this,’ and ‘Amazing’ on multiple occasions.”
After several hours of deliberating, the judges selected five students to win $10,000, four students to win $12,000, three students to win $16,000, and one student to win $20,000.
“When students combine these awards with other academic and merit scholarships, it can make their total career at Kendall very manageable from a financial standpoint,” Jones said.
The 2013 grand prize winner was Aaron Porter, a homeschooled student from Plainwell, who will enter Kendall’s Digital Media program in Fall 2013. An aspiring cinematographer, Porter submitted three short films including a music video, a narrative, and a documentary of a visit to the West Coast.
“Aaron’s work stood out because of the strong linear narratives that flowed seamlessly through visually stunning video footage,” DeKraker said. “When paired with his immaculate editing skills, it resulted in three works of art that embraced technology and mesmerized the jurors. We also thought the concepts he explored were well thought out and possibly even somewhat personal – something that, as faculty, we always look for in artwork.”
Porter was thrilled to receive this year’s top award. “I was on edge all day anticipating what was going to happen,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting to win, but I didn’t feel bad because halfway through the awards, I could see the caliber of work that was winning, and it was all very deserving. Getting the top prize was a big surprise to me. It definitely makes school more affordable and makes me more excited to attend. It’s hard to tell where I might end up after the next four years, but I’m hoping to focus in and create the best work I have yet to make while I’m at Kendall.”
Jones noted that taking part in the competition tends to benefit students throughout their careers.
“They’ve had a higher success rate with graduating on time, participating with other campus activities, and being more involved in the Kendall community,” he said. “It’s an event that stirs a sense of confidence and a desire to join in and get the most of the college experience.”
“The fact that these students are already getting their work in front of college faculty is phenomenal,” DeKraker added. “It is my hope these talented students will continue their creative education at Kendall College of Art and Design knowing that the faculty understands and appreciates their passion.”
As a unique part of Ferris State University, Kendall College of Art and Design prepares students for leadership in the visual arts, design, art history, and art education; provides innovative, collaborative education that fosters intellectual growth and individual creativity; and promotes the ethical and civic responsibilities of artists and designers, locally and globally. For more information, please visit www.kcad.edu.