Marta Churchwell: Spiva’s flagship exhibition kicks off this weekend | Lifestyles

Robert G. Mull

Spiva Center for the Arts’ annual flagship exhibitions — the Jo Mueller Small Works Auction and PhotoSpiva — will kick off this weekend, giving patrons the opportunity to buy the work of accomplished area artists and to view the finest work in contemporary photography nationwide.

The auction will run through Friday, May 13, in the Regional Gallery and the photography exhibition will close the following day in the Main Gallery.

This marks the first year that the Small Works Auction has been renamed in the memory of Jo Mueller, longtime Spiva director who died last year. The auction was instituted under her tenure, and it has become one of the art center’s largest annual fundraisers, second only to its annual St. Avips Ball.

The auction allows patrons to submit silent bids on unframed, small-format artworks created by Spiva member artists. The auction is popular because of its opportunity to buy affordable artwork, some if it by accomplished artists who command high prices otherwise.

This year, more than 80 works will be up for bidding. They include paintings, photography, pottery, jewelry, mixed media and sculptures in all styles and created by artists who range from being little known to those with regional names.

Bidding on the pieces begins at $35 with the exception of seven Rainmaker works, requiring a minimum bid of $300. Rainmakers were created by artists whose work drew $300 or more in previous Small Works auctions.

Patrons who find a piece they can’t live without and want a guarantee of taking it home can choose a “Buy It Now” option, allowing them to avoid the jittery whirl of closing bidding. Artists set the “Buy It Now” price, but the minimum is $125. While this option gives the assurance of getting a piece, holding out until the live closing auction could mean a savings.

Pieces can be viewed and bids submitted and tracked on-site at Spiva or online at www.spivaarts.org/small-works-auction. Online bidding will close at 3 p.m. Friday, May 13. Final in-person bidding will be held during a closing party from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. that day.

Awards will be presented for juror’s choice, best 3D, best concept, best landscape, best mixed media, best photography and best still life or floral.

I urge you to take a view of the auction pieces and consider a bid. Even if you don’t win the bid, you’ll help drive up the prices, putting more money in the bank for Spiva.

PhotoSpiva is the art center’s signature competitive exhibition, now entering its 46th year, making it the nation’s longest continually running photography competition of its kind.

This year, the competition drew 890 submissions nationwide and 95 were accepted into the exhibition. Nine of those accepted were submitted by Joplin photographers.

As a survey of excellence in contemporary photography, the competition allows Spiva to attract jurors who are respected and recognized in national photography circles, sometimes even in international circles.

These jurors are assigned to review hundreds of entries and narrow them to about 10% worthy of acceptance into an exhibition of photographic excellence. Using blind judging, they have no knowledge of the entrants or their statuses as amateur or professional photographers. They simply pore through the entries, studying the artistic and technical nuances of each and continually culling them until there are a suitable number for the Spiva Main Gallery.

This year’s jurors are Erin and Eric Dodson, co-founders of Kiosk Gallery, an artist-run space in Kansas City.

Erin Dodson is curator of the Hallmark Art Collection, the most enduring corporate art collection in the U.S., and she formerly worked at the Richard Avedon Foundation, contributing to the research and archiving of the renowned photographer’s work.

Eric Dodson is an artist, musician, writer and curator who operates a multimedia studio practice. He has served as guest curator for such Kansas City institutions as the Charlotte Street Foundation, the H&R Block Artspace and the Kansas City Artists Coalition.

In their jurors’ statement, the Dodsons said of this year’s competition, “As we worked through the submissions, we noticed themes coalescing. Broad horizons and big skies showed a glimpse of the American landscape, and faraway places brought color and texture. Some artists isolated abstract forms to create surprising compositions, or played with photographic processes, layering images. Arrangements of objects showed familiar forms in a new light, and images of animals and people introduced us to new personalities and provided a window into the lives of others.”

While the Dodsons reviewed entries online, they did not consider winners until viewing the installed exhibit. That allowed entries to be viewed as a whole and their details studied with a keener eye than is allowed electronically.

Winners will be announced during a jurors’ lecture and awards ceremony at 7 p.m. Saturday. Photographers will be competing for cash prizes of $1,000 for first place, $750 for second and $500 for third. There will also be presentation of merit awards of $150 each and honorable mentions of $100 each.

From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, jurors’ portfolio reviews will be conducted, allowing area photographers to have their photographs critiqued, regardless of whether they made the cut for the exhibition.

The Jo Mueller Small Works Auction and PhotoSpiva may be viewed during Spiva operating hours of 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday at 222 W. Third St.

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