Written by: Izzi Diaz
Around the world, artists are desperately striving to have their voices heard, especially during a pandemic. Our young artists, who often face more barriers to presenting their art to the community, are on our minds as our gallery spaces continue to bring both artists and art lovers together to experience the value of the exhibiting work. These young and emerging artists are hardworking, determined, and incredibly talented, and in an effort to give up and coming creators the opportunity to relish in their diligent efforts, the Emerging Artists Committee was created.
The object of the Emerging Artists Committee is to expand the artists that the Academy showcases and heighten the experience of gallery visitors. This is executed by connecting with developing artists who have not yet had the opportunity to have their works displayed through a formal gallery show, prioritizing the showcasing of these emerging artists throughout the year.
This initiative began as a response to a lack of space available for showcasing new artists in our community, and kicked off during the early months of COVID-19 quarantine.
Artists are identified, recruited, and selected by a committee composed of Academy staff members and community volunteers who adjoin quarterly. Each member presents up to three total artists for consideration at each meeting, creating a vibrant myriad of creators. After being chosen, artists have a month to host their work in the Academy’s spaces.
“Cultivating new artists on a routine basis is important because our mission is to serve our community through arts and culture and by keeping a robust field of new artists we are exposing ourselves to a landscape of fresh perspectives and artistic expression,” says Tremayne Edwards, Director of Community Engagement.
The committee was formed by inviting local individuals from our community who might have had particular contacts with emerging artists, including Michelline Hall (artist of color and participant in the Black Artists Matter show), Jon Roark (retired Art Teacher at Heritage High School), and Kimberly Gibson-McDonald (Art Teacher at E.C. Glass High School). Rounding out the committee are three Academy staff members: Tremayne Edwards, Nakesha Moore, and Ted Batt.
The committee has featured artists like Nakila White, Alex Sayer, Kelli Seagle, and Demel Bolden. Sayer, whose art is featured above, says “I am so honored to have been asked to be a part of the Emerging Artist Committee at the Academy. Ted has graciously placed me in many of the Academy’s local satellite exhibits like Magnolia Foods, Flint Property Group, St. Johns Church, and even the Warehouse Theater Lobby Gallery.”
“I was also able to donate a piece in the recent Academy Art Auction which was a huge success,” said Sayer. “These exhibitions have made my art career in Lynchburg and I will forever be indebted to Ted, the Academy, and the amazing patrons who support local artists. I am incredibly excited to show my work in the Emerging Artist Series and I really hope that everyone enjoys it!”
One of the main focuses of the committee, in addition to highlighting emerging young artists, is to also put a focus on highlighting artists of color.
Director of Visual Arts, Ted Batt, expanded on the importance of highlighting artists of color in today’s society. With the recent art exhibition entitled “Black Artists Matter”, a response to the murder of George Floyd, the Academy employees united together to discuss ways to contribute to the cause.
“The staff of the Academy reflected on how, as an organization, we could do better with engaging emerging artists and artists of color into the Academy’s programming of the galleries,” says Batt. “Our goal again is to offer exhibitions quarterly to emerging artists in the Academy galleries and further, to build relationships with these artists so that they become active and involved with the Academy in the future.”
Along with the committee, people in the surrounding area are always welcome to reach out to Tremayne Edwards, Director of Community Engagement, or Ted Batt, Director of Visual Arts, if they have an artist in mind for the committee to consider moving forward.