Jackson Wrede’s piece, “Gillian,” won a $2,000 MFAC award.

Jackson Wrede’s piece, “Gillian,” won a $2,000 MFAC award.

Photo provided by the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center

Michigan artists compete in annual BBAC competition

By: Mary Genson | Birmingham-Bloomfield Eagle | Published June 28, 2023


BIRMINGHAM — The Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center has been hosting the Michigan Fine Arts Competition since they inherited it from the Detroit Institute of Arts in 1982.

For the 42nd edition of the MFAC, 596 pieces of art were entered. Of these entries, only 90 were selected for the exhibition.

This year’s artists include a mix of new artists and artists that the Michigan art community may be more familiar with.

“It’s always an exhibit that gives you a pulse of what artists are actually creating, because the work all has been done in the last year and a half, so you can really get a feel for what direction art is moving towards,” said BBAC President and CEO Annie VanGelderen.

Artists who received the MCAF award include Jackson Wrede for “Gillian,” Kirk Roda for “Emotion Basket,” Susan Aaron-Taylor for “Endangered:  Red Wolf,” and Philip Ruehle for “Adamant Indecision.”

Susan O’Connor earned the President’s Award for “Unload and Lock,” and Candace Pappas earned the Corinne Maillard Robinson Award for “Self- Portrait with Bittersweet Vines.”

A Blick Art Materials gift card was granted to Douglas Malone for “Exile 2,” Sarah Nesbitt for “Migration” and Colleen O’Rourke for “Sorcha.”

Each year, the BBAC chooses an out-of-state juror to avoid bias towards any of the artists. This year’s juror is Cris Worley, the founder and owner of Cris Worley Fine Arts in Dallas.

Worley is a leader in the arts in Dallas and is qualified with over 20 years of experience in the fine arts industry, a bachelor’s in fine art and a master’s in art history.

Worley’s process was a layered step-by-step process that required careful attention to detail.

While jurying a large number of pieces online, Worley acknowledged the pros and cons of reviewing art on a computer screen. For example, not every piece is the size it is on a computer screen.

“You have to kind of be trained to look at the details when you’re taking all these things into consideration,” Worley said. “But there are some great things about doing these kinds of competitions online as well because you can get a broader reach of jurors from anywhere in the country or even beyond who can jury this exhibition and have an opportunity to look at the artwork of artists living and working in Michigan.”

Worley’s point ties into the BBAC’s tradition of using an out-of-state juror.

Worley said she looked for pieces that grabbed her attention, were interesting to look at and showed an advanced skill level of the medium used.

“I am very interested in a strong conceptual foundation, but also the implementation has to be very strong,” Worley said.

Worley said that she was flattered to be asked to be involved with this competition.

“I love having the opportunity to sort of get an insider’s look into the creative community of Michiganders,” Worley said. “I feel like I got a little taste of a world that I don’t know a whole lot about.”

The MCAF aligns with the beginning of the BBAC’s kids summer camps, meaning the campers have the opportunity to be inspired by the artist’s work in the gallery.

“It is a great experience all summer long to have these children immersed in all this new art,” VanGelderen said.

The exhibit runs until Aug. 17.

The BBAC is located 1516 S. Cranbrook Road in Birmingham. For more information, visit bbartcenter.org.