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Art Museum celebrates student artists with Student Response Exhibition awards

Olivia De Leon won second place for her oil painting named “Where Do I Stand?”
Olivia De Leon won second place for her oil painting named “Where Do I Stand?”

Three student artists were awarded cash prizes for their submissions to the 2022 Student Response Exhibition, a yearly student art showcase, during a ceremony at the Miami University Art Museum on Wednesday, Nov. 9.

Cassady Edwards, Olivia De Leon and Kayla Becker placed first, second and third respectively for their contributions to the exhibition, the theme of which was “Interconnected: Land | Identity | Community.” The winners were determined through a public vote made by visitors to the museum during its showcase.

Attendees to the ceremony and accompanying reception, which included many of the contributing artists and their families, were able to tour the 31 featured pieces and enjoy light refreshments prior to the announcement of the winners.

Becker, a sophomore computer science major and a member of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, said she didn’t expect to win anything at the awards.

“I’m honestly kind of shocked because there were a lot of really neat pieces there,” Becker said. “Some of them were just beautiful in general. Some of them had a lot of thought and explanation put to them, and a lot of these came from people who are art majors, so they know what they’re doing.”

Even without much formal art training, two of Becker’s pieces were chosen for the exhibition, with one, a dance stick modeled after a traditional Native American item, placing third overall.

“I’m really excited about it; it made me feel really good,” Becker said. “It made me feel like maybe I’m more creative than I realized I was.”

In an email to The Miami Student, De Leon, a senior studio art major, explained that the exhibition’s theme resonated with her because of her family ties, which influenced her piece, an oil painting named “Where Do I Stand?”

“My parents moved to Mexico on the first day of freshman year at Miami, so their leaving felt like my heart was divided by distance and forced me to find myself,” De Leon wrote. “Growing up in a small town, I never really got to experience and discover what my Mexican heritage truly meant, so their moving allowed me to experience Mexico firsthand by visiting.”

De Leon also wrote that she was incredibly grateful to be given second place for her work.

“I don't necessarily do well with accepting compliments and consider myself to be humble, so to receive second place was an honor and a surprise,” De Leon wrote.

This year’s exhibition, the museum’s seventh, was done in collaboration with Miami’s Myaamia Center. Assistant Director George Ironstrack and Director of Miami Tribe Relations Kara Strass were directly involved in the development of the theme and selection of the pieces.

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At the awards ceremony, the museum also unveiled a new land acknowledgement panel that will sit in the lobby moving forward, demonstrating their commitment to maintaining a close relationship with the Myaamia Center.

Sherri Krazl, coordinator of marketing and communications for the Art Museum, spoke on this partnership.

“Whenever there’s an opportunity to collaborate with [the Myaamia Center], we reach out,” Krazl said. “We reached out and had some meetings with them to talk about what it would look like, what the theme should be, what would be appropriate.”

Photo by Macey Chamberlin | The Miami Student
The Miami University Art Museum unveiled a new land acknowledgement to demonstrate their relationship with the Myaamia Center.

Krazl said the chosen theme was settled upon to allow students from all backgrounds to contribute.

“In the process of talking through the theme of tribal sovereignty, we wanted to make sure that we titled the exhibition and did the call for art with something that was broad enough,” Krazl said. “That students that maybe didn’t already have some sort of a connection or understanding or relationship with a tribe or tribal community could still participate.”

In total, 55 works were submitted to the exhibition. A panel of judges, including Ironstrack, Strass and Krazl, as well as art museum Collections Manager/Registrar Laura Stewart and Curator of Exhibitions Jason Shaiman, narrowed the list down to 31.

Shaiman said the process of staging the exhibition presented an interesting challenge.

“Even though we have a theme, the works aren’t directly tied to one another,” Shaiman said. “A lot of it is looking at shapes, looking at colors, looking at patterns, looking at the themes that I see but also what I inferred from their artist statement.”

This year’s Student Response Exhibition will be available through Dec. 10. Shaiman said he hopes people will come to see it, and that it will cause them to think about what the themes of land, identity and community mean to them.

“We really hope that people are going to walk away with an understanding of how artists are responding to their own experiences,” Shaiman said. “And sometimes responding to larger stories, larger concepts that go beyond what they really understand about themselves.”