Student work to join permanent art collection

On occasion, the university honors student artists by purchasing their work and adding it to the permanent collection on campus.

There is no specific number of pieces purchased annually by the university, but about two to eight pieces are usually purchased and added to CMU's permanent art collection, said University Art Gallery director Anne Gochenour. This year, two pieces have been selected so far. Most of the permanent collection is displayed in the Charles V. Park Library and the Health Professions Building on campus.

Highland senior Christina Waggoner was one of two recipients of a Purchase Award. Her piece, titled "///," will be added to the permanent collection at CMU, along with Grand Rapids junior Michael Farris' piece, "Ignorance vs. Innocence."

Gochnour said it could be considered the best award for student artists to receive at CMU.

“To be in a permanent collection, that’s a public collection, is really what to aspire to as an artist,” she said.

The university purchased Farris' piece for $225. 

"At first, I did not want to sell my piece because it has a lot of personal value to me," Farris said. 

However, he ultimately changed his mind, deciding recognition of his work in a public major setting is worth losing one of the prints he crafted. 

Farris said his work was inspired by his enthusiasm for the topic of human ignorance acting against our planet for resources. 

The Art on Campus committee must approve any piece to be purchased that will join the permanent collection. Gochenour said the committee, which includes five members, was formed because as art work has been purchased by the university over the years, policies needed to be established about taking care of the art. 

The Art on Campus committee selected the Waggoner and Farris pieces to join the permanent gallery.

Works in the permanent gallery contain pieces from students and alumni donations. When student works are selected, they tend to come from student exhibitions throughout the year. 

“Taking care of art takes time and money,” Gouchenour said. “Because CMU has an art school, a certain degree of quality is required.”

Natalie Wetzel, assistant professor at Kendall College of Art and Design, helped choose the contending pieces in Purchase Awards.

“I view the opportunity to jury as an honor, and I take it very seriously. There was a ton of strong work submitted,” she said. "My choice was not easy.”

Wetzel said she chose pieces that she could not stop thinking about. 

“As artists, I think (the main) goal is to get people to pay attention to what we create. Beyond that, I feel it is our responsibility and opportunity to offer a pool of insight as deep as we consider to go and share.”

“The experience of receiving the Purchase Award has been amazing and super validating, but it’s not the final destination,” Waggoner said. "Receiving this award, despite times I’ve felt unsure about my work, just reinforces the notion that I always need to keep moving forward."

Having her art purchased and added to CMU's permanent collection will enhance her resume, she said.

“The process of applying to an art exhibition is a great experience in itself,” Waggoner said. 

Waggoner described her style as an artist as "abstract painter," and enjoys working with a process called psychic automatism. Her award-winning piece was inspired by the colors in a photo she took while on vacation in Moab, Utah.

“I don’t really plan my work out in advance,” she said. "I found the color of the rocks with the Colorado River beautiful together.”

Waggoner said applying to enter work in an exhibition can be both defeating and exhilarating, and it is important for artists to use the experience to continue artistic momentum, whether they win or lose.