Young Talent in Oklahoma' celebrates 50 years of pairing alumni art with high school students' work

Young Talent in Oklahoma
On display through April 10
Troy and Dollie Smith Cancer Center Art Gallery, Building D
Integris Baptist Medical Center
3300 Northwest Expressway
photo/Amy Erickson's "Byzzar"

Whether it was their first big show or an opportunity to prove they took their art seriously, many Oklahomans remember "Young Talent in Oklahoma" as the catalyst for ditching more secure career paths for a life dedicated to art.

The annual high school art competition is entirely organized by volunteers with the Oklahoma Art Education Association. Started in the spring of 1960 by art teachers Marge Humphrey and Belva Clement, "Young Talent" celebrates its 50th anniversary by inviting alumni to return and exhibit alongside students in the Troy and Dollie Smith Cancer Center Art Gallery at Integris Baptist Medical Center, Building D, 3300 Northwest Expressway.

"This is the very first time that we've had an adult show with the high school show," said Jann Jeffrey, chair of the alumni exhibit. "These are people who, in the past, dating back all the way back to 1964, were portfolio winners as high schoolers."

Winners have gone on to successful careers as art educators and artists. The 41 exhibiting alumni include Martha McFarland Goetz, who painted the life-sized portrait of Wiley Post hanging in the Oklahoma History Center, as well as Wayne Coe, who developed title-sequence and special-effects storyboards for major feature films. The retrospective also includes pieces by illustrator/painter Greg Burns, jeweler Gail Sloop and collage artist Christina Kerns.

"With this exhibit, we wanted to select people who were still artists, who were still fully in their career as some kind of visual artist," Jeffrey said.

Awarding more than $5,000 in scholarships, the 2010 show features more than 160 pieces from students representing more than 40 schools statewide. This year's top three portfolio winners are Amy Erickson, who studies with teacher Kathleen Blake; Emily Julstrom from Bartlesville High School; and Jenna Spence of Edmond Santa Fe. Each was given a $1,000 scholarship; the two runners-up each receive $500; and the rest of the 12 finalists receive a professional leather portfolio.

"We want to support those young people who are considering going on into the field, and this provides a little extra help," Jeffrey said.

In addition to the winning portfolios, merit awards, honorable mentions and juror's choice recognitions for the ninth- to 12th-grade general entries are given. This year's jurors are Fran Bolte, a high school art teacher from Carrollton, Texas; Chris Ramsay, head of the art department at Oklahoma State University; and David Crismon, head of the art department at Oklahoma Christian University.

"It's really wonderful to be able to put this in your bio or your vitae," Jeffrey said. "If you can say that you have been in a juried show as a 10th grader, that speaks really well for your ability. Thousands of entries are turned in, and our show is narrowed to about 160 pieces. We were so surprised when we were trying to find people from the last 50 years, because some people still include it in their professional bio."

On April 9, a dinner will honor the alumni; on April 10, the exhibit will close with an awards ceremony.

Each day, hundreds of people pass through the gallery in the oncology care center at Integris, most glancing at and many studying the art on their way to doctors' offices.

"A man asked me what the exhibit was and I told him, and he said, 'I can't tell the difference between the adult and the student when I am looking at these paintings. They are all just sophisticated and grounded,'" Jeffrey said. "Allison Meier

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