ArtsWest celebrates 44th year with annual gallery and award show

A look into the art gallery within Eau Claire’s public library

Delia Brandel

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December 12, 2023
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Photo by Delia Brandel

Gallery attendants observing the art pieces after the artist reception.

The L.E. Phillips Library in downtown Eau Claire hosted the ArtsWest 44, a single juried art competition open to any Wisconsin residents ages 18 and older. 

The juror curated a gallery and chose the only first through third and honorable mentions to be presented at the artist reception and award ceremony on March 30. 

This year, the juror for the art show is Frank Juarez. Juarez is an art educator, director and author. He is also the art department chair at Sheboygan North High School and publisher at ArtDose magazine.

When asked about his process, Juarez said, “I always try to create some type of narrative that connects them all. I feel like that dialogue is important.” 

The artwork chosen is available for viewing within the library until May 23. The exhibit is free to the public and open to all ages. 

“For this specific exhibition, the story is really about artists on this side of the state… the majority of the artists are from Eau Claire which is amazing,” Juarez said. 

Juarez owns his own art magazine named ArtDose, a local opportunity for midwest artists to show their pieces and connect with others. 

“I want to create opportunities for collaboration across state lines, it’s truly about centering on the visual arts,” Juarez said.

The magazine is completely art focused, down to the advertisements and articles included in each issue. Juarez emphasized the importance of creatives being able to find an audience, and hopes the magazine can do that for many local artists. 

The poster advertising the event is designed by a UW-Eau Claure graphic design student. The art in the gallery is mostly local and rotates to allow the public to enjoy the arts free of cost. 

The winners of the awards receive a monetary prize; best of show is $300, first prize is $200, second prize is $150 and third is $100. The prizes are donated by the friends of the L.E Phillips memorial public library. 

Each year, as stated in the events program, friends of the L.E Phillips Public Library donates approximately $20,000 dollars, which goes towards equipment, programs and services. 

The best in show winner was Ashley Wittling, based out of Chippewa Valley. Her piece titled “Duality” is watercolor, gouache and gold leaf based on two girls, surrounded by plants and luna moths. 

Wittling said she has been making art for the past 30 years, and takes most of her influences from nature and the hope of bringing a sense of childlike wonder back to adult lives. 

Wittling mentioned her artistic process and said, “There is a lot of whimsy within my art, I think it’s really important as we grow and become adults, we kind of lose that fanciful imagination of the world”.

As a Wiscionsin native, Wittling said she pulls from her memory and surroundings. 

“It’s inspired by the flora and fauna around us, I use those elements along with my figurative work and show the interaction between them,” Wittling said.

The exhibit is open for the next month, after which a new round of visual arts will be curated and placed within the library gallery. A call for art to display in this gallery is also currently ongoing, which is advertised here

Delia Brandel can be reached at [email protected].