Barry McNamara  |   Published February 11, 2021

Artists Claim Four Awards

Monmouth students bring home majority of honors from Figge Art Museum show.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – Two new artists were among a group of four Monmouth College students who brought home the lion’s share of awards from the opening reception of the Figge Art Museum’s College Invitational Art Exhibition.

Students in the exhibition at the Davenport, Iowa, gallery represented eight area colleges and universities, including Augustana, Black Hawk, Clinton Community College, Knox, Monmouth, Scott Community College, St. Ambrose and Western Illinois.

Art professors from each of the participating colleges selected works from their school to include in this year’s College Invitational.

Monmouth students received four of the seven awards presented at the reception, including the top first-place honor for freshman Grace Cornelius of Warrenville, Illinois. Another first-year student, Z Kendall of Rock Hall, Maryland, brought home one of two judge’s choice honors for Monmouth students, with the other received by 2020 graduate Amy Vellenga-Buban. Rebecca Quick ’21 of Moline, Illinois, received an honorable mention.

Cornelius’ winning work is a colorful photograph with a less cheerful message.

“Our art majors … are making art that captures complex facets of the human condition, and the juror really responded to the depth of these visual conversations.” Janis Wunderlich

“I wanted to capture the issue of the overwhelming impact plastic has in our society,” she said. “Even the youngest members of our world are affected by the plethora of plastic. I deliberately chose to create this installation outside, with sand as a base and a wooden fence as a background. This allowed for a contrast to the artificial nature of the plastic toys. I believe the most powerful part of this piece is the distressed facial expression on the three-year-old model.”

Monmouth art professor Janis Wunderlich said the winning work is just one example of Monmouth art students voicing “concerns.”

“I applaud our art majors who courageously use their art to voice concerns and concepts,” she said. “They are making art that captures complex facets of the human condition, and the juror really responded to the depth of these visual conversations. One of our art majors mentioned their gratitude for an art program that is both challenging and allows space for inserting individual passion. It is thrilling to work with such an engaging and creative artistic college community.”

“Being recognized at this exhibition is a testament to the abilities of our students and to our department as a whole.” Stacy Lotz

Stacy Lotz, one of Wunderlich’s department colleagues, said it’s an accomplishment for an artist to even be accepted for the exhibit, let alone receive an award.

“Being recognized at this exhibition is a testament to the abilities of our students and to our department as a whole,” she added. “I’m so proud of all of them.”

Lotz’s department colleague Brian Baugh cited the College’s “dramatic improvement” at the exhibition. He noted that the College Invitational is held every two years, and that Monmouth students had a combined two awards in the 2016 and 2018 exhibits, including one for Vellenga-Buban.

His wife, Stephanie Baugh, another member of the art department, said: “The Figge Invitational is a wonderful opportunity for students to have their work on display in a museum and to see their work alongside that of their peers from other institutions. But for Monmouth students to take home four of the seven awards, that’s fantastic and is a testament to the quality, thoughtfulness and creativity of what they do.”

Also representing Monmouth at the College Invitational are Ryan Dawson ’21 of Monmouth, Miranda Pasky ’21 of Paso Robles, California, and Mark Thigpen ’22 of Bellwood, Illinois.

The exhibit will be on display through June 6 in the Figge’s second-floor Katz Gallery.

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