The Arts Scene: A lot goes into putting on annual Central Washington Artists’ Exhibition

When you get close to opening the Central Washington Artists’ Exhibition each year, you realize how many details need to be worked out, from setting the dates and sending out the call for artists, to remembering to run to the store to buy ingredients for punch.

This past Saturday, the Larson Gallery at Yakima Valley College opened the 64th annual Central Washington Artists’ Exhibition. This year, 83 works by 57 artists were chosen. Originally called the Yakima Valley Artists exhibition, the boundaries eventually extended over the years into other Central Washington counties such as Benton, Chelan, Franklin, Grant, Kittitas, Klickitat, Okanogan and Walla Walla.

In July, the call for artists is mailed out, put on social media and the internet, and bundles of mailers sent to other galleries. By the deadline in September, there were 211 artworks entered by 87 artists.

The juror, who is selected before summer, is then ready to review the selections over a one-week period in September. This year the juror was Greg Robinson, who began working at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art in 2010 and serves as chief curator. Robinson is a Seattle native who has worked in arts administration for 23 years, most recently as executive director of the Museum of Northwest Art in La Conner. He has served on numerous arts juries and awards panels and holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington and a master’s degree in public administration from New York University.

Before he is sent the selections, they are all numbered so the juror does not know the artists’ names. A final list and images are sent for review. After the juror returns the list, the staff then notifies the artists if they are accepted or not. If you are an artist who enters juried shows, you come to know that it is not whether your piece is good or not, but often other criteria that go into selecting work.

Serving as a juror myself for other galleries, the majority of works are excellent. It then comes down to how I see the pieces in a collective exhibit.

After the artists bring their works in, the next task is to see how they will hang in the gallery. The artworks are installed, lights arranged, and labels put in place.

One of the draws from this exhibit is that there are several awards, including Best of Show, awards given as memorials, and the Yakima Valley College Presidents award. Many of the awards are selected in person by the juror, while others are made by individuals. Each award is sponsored by a person or business; for example, this year’s Best of Show is sponsored by Roy Farms.

Once all that is in place, the doors open to the public. The community and many of the artists arrive and socialize. Then the big moment arrives, when the awards are given.

After the reception, it’s time to clean up, head home and relax.

Although the gallery is closed for Thanksgiving break, the exhibition will continue through Dec. 7. The process then begins again for the 65th annual exhibit, which will be the last exhibit in the current location before moving across the street to the new West Campus.

• David Lynx is executive director of the Larson Gallery at Yakima Valley College. Learn more at www.larsongallery.org.

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