You wouldn’t think that the museum life would be routine. All the fantastic art that graces these walls? But it certainly can be. Often we get into a hamster wheel of exhibit and event schedules looking up only now and then long enough to spot the next deadline. Mount a new exhibit. Offer a few events to expand on the exhibit theme. Tweet about how cool it all is. Wash, rinse, and retweet.
And with all of the happy faces that make their way through our exhibits, events, and other programs it’s easy to assume that our mission has been met and that our constituents have all been duly enriched. Rarely is there time or impetus to wonder whether any of those constituents have been affected by their engagement with the museum, whether they’ve internalized the connection and expanded upon it.
One initiative that does get me to exactly that sort of wondering is our annual Arts Awards program. Every year we solicit nominations from the local community for students, artists, and art benefactors whose support of the visual arts merits distinction, and we select several to honor at our Annual Dinner. The winners get feted and appreciated for an evening, and each receives a certificate. Articles in the paper, all that sort of thing. We let the world know that this crop of arts heroes has done something special, and we hope that each feels appropriately celebrated for his or her talent. Then we go about another year of wash, rinse, and retweet until the specter of the next Arts Awards season makes us wonder where all the time has gone and what happened to last year’s winners and whether we made a difference in their lives to the extent that it would be worth trying to do it again this year.
Wondering, of course, is usually about as far as it goes. We have to take it on faith that our little awards program is having a positive impact.
But not this year. This year, I know that it is. I have evidence.
Three years ago we gave an Arts Award to a local high school senior, Kiera Hoefle, whose nomination materials noted that she was, among other things, “relentlessly experimental.” See exhibits A and B below for proof. As a typography geek I especially like When Numbers Read. The figures have an undeniable presence to them due, in part, to one of the more exceptional uses of white space I’ve seen in a while. A strong composition. Indeed, all of her supporting portfolio samples were strong.
Fast forward three years. I recently learned, through a mutual acquaintance, that Keira is studying design and experiencing solid success. She’s even won an exhibition design competition — something of which I, as a museum professional, take specific note — and traveled to London to install it. I took great delight in hearing about her accomplishments, and I couldn’t help but feel a sense of satisfaction in knowing that our Arts Awards program may well have provided at least some small part of the spark that has kept her moving in such an exciting direction.
On a whim, I got in touch with Kiera and asked to see some examples of the work she’s done since receiving her award. She graciously agreed, and, with her permission, I include some of it below. Her work is professional, energetic, and vibrant, and she sets an example of exactly the sort of achievement that we hope to highlight and foster through our Arts Awards program. Having had a glimpse into the most recent phase of her career arc I am duly invigorated to witness another round of nominations. Bring on the portfolios.
Know of other Arts Award recipients who have gone on to further achievements in the arts? We’d love to hear from/about them. We’re always listening digitally: by email, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Or leave a comment below, we like those too.