what he said – hudgens prize

here’s someone else asking questions about one of the largest prizes going that nobody knows about.  what’s wrong with this picture.

The $50,000 Hudgens Prize should be making bigger art-world ripples

Posted by Cinque Hicks on Mon, Nov 1, 2010 at 9:00 AM

If you’re active in the intown Atlanta art scene, there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of the Hudgens Center for the Arts. And even if you have, odds are you’ve never been there.

The Hudgens Center is known to Duluth residents as part of the sprawling Gwinnett Center, a multipurpose complex running along an otherwise undistinguished stretch of suburban asphalt 12 miles outside I-285. It’s also home to the newly established Hudgens Prize. Announced last winter as both an art prize and a “juried show,” the winner-take-all prize includes $50,000 in cash provided anonymously by a Duluth-based family foundation for a single Georgia artist. The prize jury boasts a trio of bona fide national and international art world players: Sylvie Fortin, executive director of Art Papers; Eungie Joo, director of education and public programs at New York’s New Museum; and David Kiehl, curator of prints at the Whitney Museum of American Art, also in New York.

After nine months and almost 400 artist entries, the Hudgens announced its five finalists: Ruth Dusseault, Hope Hilton, Gyun Hur, Scott Ingram and Jiha Moon. All five are familiar names to Atlanta art-world cognoscenti. The final winner will be announced Nov. 30.

The strange thing is what happened immediately following the announcement of the finalists. Basically nothing. The chattering classes of the art world, always eager to express an opinion about who should’ve gotten what, mostly fell silent. The press produced a trickle; the blogosphere, crickets. Even social networkers didn’t move the needle, preferring to report on making a ham sandwich or someone’s cat doing something cute.

At $50,000, the Hudgens Prize is a big deal. It leaves the prestigious Louis Comfort Tiffany Prize ($20,000) in its dust and nips at the heels of the U.K.’s Turner Prize, (around $63,000), the paragon of prestigious art prizes. Both prizes solidify artists’ careers. They’re seals of approval, validating artists ready to box with the big boys and girls. The same is true of a handful of even larger prizes, such as the Guggenheim’s Hugo Boss Prize, weighing in at a hefty hundred grand.

Although clearly no Turner Prize, $50,000 is certain to be a game-changer for the winning artist. That kind of scratch buys a lot of supplies and studio space. More importantly it buys time, the one commodity most artists find themselves always short on between day jobs and the busy work of daily life. But what the Hudgens Prize will mean to the artist’s career, the arts in Metro Atlanta and the Hudgens Center’s place in the arts community is far less certain.

According to Angela Nichols, the Hudgens’ director of education and public programs, the prize was established not only to support an individual artist, but to raise the stature of the arts in Georgia and the profile of the Hudgens Center. So why hasn’t it generated more buzz?

If money is the gasoline that fuels the engine of the art world, prestige is the oil. It’s nasty, but it’s the unctuous stuff that eases relations between people and keeps the system running. The prize may have gotten the cash right, but the elusive prestige has so far been a no-show.

Questioning a $50,000 give-away might seem ungrateful to many within the arts community and outrageous to those outside it. And if the prize’s only goal were to swell an individual artist’s bank account, then it would be outrageous. But from its inception, the prize was designed to spotlight an entire community as much as a single artist. That price tag should be enough to buy a spot on the art-world map. That’s why this unprecedented gesture is worth pursuing and worth getting right.

Some solutions are easy: Axe the prize’s $50 entry fee, for starters. Entry fees are for street fairs and amateur contests, not for major prizes meant to engage professional artists. Also, the fairly arbitrary limitations on format and size (works had to be less than 60 inches in any direction) not only discouraged the most ambitious work in traditional media, it seemed to deny altogether the most vital practices occurring in contemporary art, such as installation and performance. That’s fine if the top prize is $250, but not when the check is considerably larger.

Currently, the anonymous funders conceive the prize as a one-time event. That would be the gravest mistake of all. A one-time infusion of cash to a single artist would have almost no effect on anyone other than the winner. The multiplier effect of an art prize can come only over time, alongside a buildup of courageous programming and outreach that also continues to raise the Hudgens Center’s stature over the long haul. Continuing the prize would be the only sane way to protect the initial investment.

The Hudgens Prize is an tremendous opportunity for an artist and a wonderful addition to the metro Atlanta art world. With some adjustments, it could make a mark not only in one artist’s life, but in the life of every artist in the state.

the hudgens prize update

the following is from the july hudgens center newsletter, and is the first news we’ve had about the contest since before the deadline.  only 350 applications!  that means they raised only $17,500 from all the entrants, and much of that money went for a yearly membership to the hudgens center, as if.

i’d expected they’d be able to get 1000 artists who live in georgia hopeful and greedy enough to pay $50 each, and raise the $50,000 they need for their prize that way.  personally i doubt this prize will ever be awarded.

this is a small county arts center, with fewer than 5 full time employees.  the secret donor has the 50k, of course – according to the press release – but i always doubted the money was ready in hand.  we may figure this out at some point, but it’s still a mystery here on the ground.  because nobody in the arts here in georgia knows anything about this contest.  that in itself is suspicious.  everyone should know all about it soon after it was announced.  i mean, the chance of winning $50,000 at once, wow, too good to be true.  but nobody knows anything.  they just respin the press release and show no curiosity, no suspicion.  it’s kind of like the willful blindness happening with the gulf oil spill.

i just hope that the painting detail they’ve chosen as the icon of the contest (below) isn’t representative of the kind of art they’re looking for.  phoo-yuck.

The Hudgens Prize

Hudgens Prize

Entries for The Hudgens Prize exceeded our expectations and numbered over 350.

We’d like to welcome all our new members who joined us through this competition, and wish you each the best of luck!

All artists will be notified by mail, postmarked on or before August 30, of whether or not they’ve been chosen as Finalists.

The Finalists’ Exhibition will take place in November.

danish herring

i’m trying to figure out what smells funny about a new art competition for georgia artists.  the prize is obscenely large – $50,000.  it’s called the hudgens prize, and there’s no news on it beside reworded press releases, there’s no theme, nobody knows what kind of art they’re looking for, nobody’s saying where the money‘s coming from, and the judges are all mainstream museum professionals from out of town.

why would they want to give away $50,000 when plenty of artists would enter a contest for a $500 top prize?  why does it have to be orders of magnitude beyond what most other organizations offer?  why does it look too good to be true?  why offer all that money if you’re not pushing an agenda, and if you are, why not say it out loud so the proper subsection of artists will hear and respond?  it’s a foundation, apparently, but nobody’s saying what kind of foundation.  conservative white christian, like most of gwinnett county?  liberal varicolored catholic muslim and hindu, like the other half of gwinnett?

i’ve asked around.  nobody’s saying.  even among art dealers and gallery owners nobody knows about it.  and who’s entering?  the gallery people i know don’t know of any gallery artists entering the competition, and i’m not seeing a lot of blog posts on it, even tho it’s been announced for months and months.

the prospectus is unprofessional as well.  it doesn’t specify what format or resolution they want the images, it doesn’t say where to send the entry, they’re not interested in a bio, and there will be no response for three months.  these are details considered necessary in a real official prospectus from an established art institution.  especially one boasting such a professional field of jurors.

it smells.

it’s hyped, as well, and the secrecy factor was played up in the official announcements.  what bothers me is that nobody’s talking about it, or asking why it looks too good to be true.

The Prize is sponsored by a private foundation that prefers to remain anonymous. “They were strongly interested in supporting the arts on a statewide basis, and also wanted to help increase the visibility and prestige of The Hudgens in the state,” said Stan Hall, Chairman of the Board at The Hudgens.

“We are greatly honored that the foundation chose us to be the venue and facilitators for this exciting competition,” stated Hall.

there’s an unspoken agenda that looms large.  someone’s looking for something, and they’re not saying anything about it.

now, it could be a sting of some sort.  it could be a bunch of feds setting up an art contest, hoping to get hold of some notable tax evaders.

or of course it could be a way of evading the tax rules about gifts, and setting up the donor’s nephew to win the prize.

it could be a great way of messing with all the patrons of a regional arts center, getting them all to participate and then awarding the prize to the center’s favorite bored housewife.

it could be a brilliant scam to raise money.  at $50 entry fee, it only takes a thousand participating entrants to make $50,000.  there’s probably more than a thousand georgia artists who will fork over fifty bucks to be rejected from such an ‘important’ show.  that’s the prize money, a thousand entrants.  anything beyond that is show expenses and profit (and art shows never make a profit, in general).  hell, if i were running such a scam, i’d hype the hell out of it, cash all the entry fees, and skip the country.  it’s been done.

but what if you ran an art contest and nobody showed up?  i can only find a couple of artists who’ve said they’re entering at all.  and these are mid-level professionals, of a skill level that is commonly found at art exhibitions around the country.

this is the cruel streak in a failed artist talking, no doubt.   i’m not entering.  i don’t have enough chutzpah to think i could win, and can’t afford to shell out $50 just to feel like at least i tried.  i’m saving up to go to europe later this year.  but i think there’s something malodorous about this whole thing.  it will be very interesting to see who is selected for the final at the end of november.  if it happens at all.