Creative freedom, diverse perspectives, talent, camaraderie and recognition are hallmarks of Oglebay Institute’s annual Crosscurrents art exhibition at the Stifel Fine Arts Center in Wheeling.
A staple in OI’s exhibition season for 42 years, Crosscurrents is a unique blend of styles, techniques, mediums and subject matter that collectively reflects the creative energy in the community and beyond. Each year, dozens of artists vie for the opportunity to be showcased here among the finest artwork from West Virginia and surrounding region.
For many, perhaps the biggest drawing point to Crosscurrents is the creative freedom and flexibility it allows artists. Eligibility guidelines simply require entrants to be 18 years of age or older and reside in West Virginia or within an 80-mile radius of Wheeling. Artists can submit up to three entries, in any medium, completed in the last calendar year that have not been previously exhibited at the Stifel Fine Arts Center. A small application fee helps to ensure the integrity of the show.
“Although certain topics can sometimes be derived within the exhibit, there is no single theme for Crosscurrents,” explains Stifel Fine Arts Center director Rick Morgan. “This may be welcomed by some artists as it enables them to create from any point of inspiration over the course of a full year and potentially choose several pieces from a large body of work,” he adds.
While there is a level of prestige to exhibiting, the experience goes beyond acceptance and awards.
Fostering Creativity Among Emerging and Established Artists Alike
The awareness and popularity of Crosscurrents continues to grow. This year’s exhibition included 27 new artists submitting work, a 40% increase from 2020. In total, 95 artists submitted 257 pieces for jurying, the most in recent memory. The final exhibition is composed of 106 accepted pieces by 85 artists.
While skill, creativity, execution of technique and use of materials are paramount in any juried exhibition, artists at all levels can feel confident in their chances once basic criteria is met. “First-time entrants have just as good a chance to be selected as seasoned exhibitor,” Morgan said.
Hannah Wagner, a first-time Crosscurrents exhibitor from Triadelphia, WV, had two of three submitted pieces selected for the show. Her acceptance has special meaning.
“I applied with the intention that it would be a fun opportunity. I was lowkey clueless. I later discovered after getting accepted and talking to locals within the community, that this show is a SHOW. I was humbled instantly and very grateful to have two pieces featured. It is a competitive and highly regarded show within our community. I feel extremely honored,” Wagner explains. “I never imagined my work in the Stifel, but to see that come full-circle and to be able to be what I always admired as a child is quite gratifying.”
Notably, Crosscurrents is also a showcase of the regions most accomplished artists. Internationally exhibited conceptual artist Brian Michael Reed took first place for his printmaking piece, Red Mist Cicada Figuration #1. Hiromi Katayama, well-known for her traditional Japanese nihonga paintings, received second place for Nature’s Winter Solstice.
Connecting, Networking and Inspiring One Another
Being accepted into Crosscurrents can be a milestone or stepping-stone for artists on their personal journey of creative expression and development of skills. The exhibit, along with the opening reception and awards ceremony, is always greatly anticipated by the public and artists alike. Opening night is not only an opportunity to see the many artworks but also a gathering to support and inspire one another.
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Tom Thomas, a longtime pottery student who honed his skills at the Stifel Fine Arts Center, was encouraged by fellow students and instructors to exhibit his work. He has gone on to exhibit at Crosscurrents several times and received an honorable mention this year for is ceramic piece, Berries in Bloom.
“I was inspired by my instructors and the support I received from those more advanced than me,” Thomas shares. He also expresses the importance of having the proper attitude. “Don’t give up, don’t walk away and continue to express yourself. If you are having trouble with the (pottery) wheel, try a different technique, perhaps clay hand-building.”
These sentiments are also reflected by juror Renée Margocee, who serves as executive director of the Tamarack Foundation for the Arts.
“Being a juror of an art exhibit is always humbling and is an avenue to give encouragement, which I really value,” Margocee says. “A juror embraces all forms of art and all stages of development,” she adds. “I look beyond skill at first, and just sit with the piece and see what caused me to want to stay, consider and admire,” Margocee explained.
As an emerging artist, Wagner said the event provides amazing networking and community building opportunities. “It genuinely makes me feel proud and excited about future events, local artists, and the arts scene in our hometown,” she said.
And the winners are…
1st place: Brian Michael Reed, Ivydale, WV – Red Mist Cicada figuration #1 (Printmaking)
2nd place: Hiromi Katayama, Washington, PA – Nature’s Winter Solstice (Painting)
3rd place: Shari Lynn Bennett, Morgantown, WV – Supper Nova (Sculpture)
International artist and Ivydale, WV native Brian Michael Reed exhibits his printmaking piece Red Mist Cicada Figuration #1, which won 1st place.
Hiromi Katayama with her 2nd place traditional Japanese nihonga painting, Nature's Winter Solstice.
Aaron Anslow, Bethany, WV – Faceted Vase (Ceramics & Pottery)
Connie Clutter, Washington, PA – Kahdja (Painting)
Tom Thomas, Wheeling, WV – Berries in Bloom (Ceramics & Pottery)
Robert Villamagna, Wheeling, WV – Crow Above the Stacks (Mixed Media)
Showcase Your Work
In recent years, Crosscurrents has opened in the spring, but exhibit dates can very within the first half of each calendar year. Those interested in exhibiting should check OIonline.com/crosscurrents beginning in January for exhibit dates and deadlines. Artists are encouraged to contact the Stifel Fine Arts Center to be added to the notifications list.
“Many artists who have initially exhibited here go on to showcase their work in other galleries. It’s great for any résumé,” Morgan said of the opportunity.
Come and See
Crosscurrents is on display, free of charge, through July 3. The Stifel Fine Arts Center is open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Saturdays. Many pieces are for sale.
Part of the Helen B. Gaither Exhibition Season, Crosscurrents is sponsored by United Bank.
The Stifel Center is also a teaching facility. Full-time and adjunct teaching artists introduce the many ways to explore visual expression through classes and workshops for all ages and skill levels.