2021 Gmitter Scholarship judging underway, final contenders to put on exhibition

Category:  The Arts
Wednesday, March 3rd, 2021 at 3:45 PM
2021 Gmitter Scholarship judging underway, final contenders to put on exhibition by Hazel Modlin
Photo: Gabe Hypes | The Gmitter Scholarship is now in its 12th year. Here, in 2018, former Spectator graphic designer Shelby Kirk participates in the competition.

Every year, in memory of Edinboro University metals student Michael Gmitter who died suddenly in 2006, Edinboro University has hosted the Gmitter Scholarship Exhibition. The event was established by Jan and Rich Gmitter — Michael’s mother and father — to “honor and cherish his memory, but also to encourage the same commitment and passion to art that Michael demonstrated during his life,” according to the Gmitter Scholarship website

This marks the 12th year of the scholarship. According to graphic and interactive design professor Shelle Barron, the show is “open [to] any arts student with at least 90 credits,” meaning students have to be seniors to enter. Barron explained that the purpose behind the exhibition is to give students an opportunity to exhibit their work, all while giving monetary prizes to help launch the winners’ future art careers.

The Gmitter Scholarship has become one of the art department’s biggest prizes. “This year, we have $4,000 to give to the top student, or students,” said Barron. “The rule is that one of the students — the top prize — has to be at least half of the amount. That means that the top prize winner will get $2,000, then two or three other students may win a lesser amount.”

Typically, the scholarship has around 30 applicants, and they currently have 25 this year. The first round of jurying has been completed by EU art faculty. Barron, who is on the jurying committee this year, explained, “usually we would do this in person; we would all gather and look at a number of pieces by each student.” But instead, they did it digitally through PowerPoint. The three faculty judges are Barron, professor Terry McKelvey and professor Jim Parlin. They then chose 10 to 15 students for the second phase.

This jury, and juries that have judged the event in the past, are deliberately selected by the art department. McKelvey explained: “Usually, what they do is they try to get a group of jurors who represent a variety of what the art department offers. So, I teach drawing & painting. Professor Parlin teaches sculpture, and professor Barron teaches graphic design; this way we cover three different areas of the art department. Having that specific diversity in a jury is considered good, as opposed to, say, having three painters on the jury.” 

The first round of jurying took place Feb. 25, and the following 13 students were selected for the second phase of judging: Tyler Palumbo, Lindsey Anderson, Ashleigh Bowman, Fabiano Ciminella, Emily Funk, Maria Holubeck, Gabriella Keebler, Audrey MacPherson, Amy Simkovitch, Margaret Whittaker, Madison Wood, Zofia Chrzanowska, and Jacob Maitland.

This second phase is the actual exhibition part of the scholarship. Now that the finalists have been chosen, Barron explained, “they [will] set up their own exhibition space in Bruce Gallery, and then an outside juror comes in to award the final prizes.” The art department brings in an outside juror in an attempt to avoid accidental favoritism in the awards process. This year, the juror is Edinboro metals alumnus Todd Rogers, who is currently the design and development manager for Forms+Surfaces, an architectural design firm in Pittsburgh.

Part of the reason this scholarship is so enticing to art students is because the prizes are varying amounts of money, and are not applied directly to students’ Edinboro financial expenses like most scholarships. Instead, the prizes are awarded via check straight to the winners. Barron explained that the money will often be used by students to “to launch their careers.” 

This exhibition is an opportunity for senior art majors of all concentrations to gain valuable experience. Barron said, “[students] have to figure out the body of work they want to display in the gallery, and it’s a good resume builder.”

The exhibition has evolved over the years, and Barron explained the history. “Originally, it was only for the studio arts — like painting, drawing, and sculpture. Then, it was extended to the applied media arts, so now any student from any area of the art department can apply.” In the past, students have used that variety to bring in everything from books and large sculptures, to other large installations.

Each student is allowed to submit around six or seven pieces. Students are permitted to use work they’ve made for their classes at Edinboro, but they’re also able to bring in projects they have created on their own time. Barron went on to say that some of the students are double majors, or have a minor, and they’ll include techniques they’ve learned from all the different medias they’ve worked in.

COVID-19 restrictions are being taken into consideration, but the current plan is still to have the final 13 students display their work in Bruce Gallery. “The gallery will be socially distanced, but people will at least get a chance to see it,” Barron said.

The exhibition, which will take place from April 26 to May 3, will also be posted online, according to Barron. “I suspect it’s going to be on the Edinboro University Art Instagram account, but also on the Bruce Gallery official site.”

Hazel Modlin is the Executive Editor of The Spectator. She can be reached at edinboro.spectator@gmail.com.

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