February 23 – July 19, 2020

Gallery Sponsor:

Exhibit Sponsor: The Bernard and Naomi L. Podolsky Charitable Trust



The Shrode Fine Art and Craft Competition and Exhibition is an annual exhibit open to all artists 18 years of age and older living in southern Illinois, south of Interstate 70, including Charleston, IL. Artists may enter a variety of media including painting, drawing, printmaking, clay, fiber, mixed media, wood, fine jewelry, metal, and sculpture. There are five prestigious awards: Best of Show ($400), Best of 2-Dimensional ($250), Best of 3-Dimensional ($250), 2 Honorable Mention ($175 each), and 4 Merit Certificates. This year 172 works of art were submitted for judging and 56 works were chosen for the exhibit by Melissa Whitwam, our guest judge.

Melissa has served as Exhibition Manager at Foundry Art Centre in St. Louis since 2013, and coordinated nearly fifty exhibitions in that capacity. She received a B.A. in Literature and a B.F.A. in Fiber Arts from Truman State University in 2003, earned a M.F.A. from Arizona State University in 2007, and now resides in St. Charles, MO. Whitwam thoughtfully and carefully deliberated over each individual entry. A serial number had been assigned in place of the artist’s name during the jury process to ensure anonymity.


The first thing that struck me about the body of works submitted (aside from its daunting number) was the strong sense of place. I consider the choice of media key to a successful work of art. The materials and subjects these artists used reflect the core characteristics of the region.

The works submitted included an impressive variety of subjects and materials, and when viewed together, they share a common tension between the classic and modern. Connotations of tradition are communicated in fine craftsmanship even as subject matter and material use are innovative. Rural landscapes are juxtaposed with encroaching civilization, abandoned buildings and urban scenes are equally represented, and in many cases, locally sourced materials gave narrative to the artists’ processes.

In order to innovate and communicate with the viewer, an artist must have a complete understanding of their craft. This exhibition has no shortage of masterful artists. For the award winners, I considered pieces that challenged craftsmanship even as they exemplified it. “Wormhole,” for instance, is a technical feat in ceramics, yet has no sense of coldness or struggle. Rather, the evidence of the artist’s hands gives it another level of import and connectedness. Another example of technical mastery is “High Noon”. The artist has captured the light of the day, depth of the foliage, and surface of the water so completely as to be transportive.

Of course, every juror, curator, and artist is disappointed that there is not enough room for more works in any exhibition. My deepest thanks to all the artists who submitted, whether selected for this show or not. It was an extreme challenge to narrow down such a selection of talent. It is my honor to be exposed to so much skill and passion and I’m grateful to Cedarhurst Center for the Arts for this opportunity. I owe special thanks to the Shrode Art Center, especially Carrie Gibbs and Nancy Pennington. It was a privilege to work with them and this community of artists.