Sometimes folks overlook the second floor of the Fine Arts Building when browsing during the Missouri State Fair, but that wasn’t an issue on Wednesday night as a packed house was on hand for the “MO 50” reception.
For more than two decades, the Missouri Arts Council has presented the 50 best pieces of the year by Missouri artists, as selected by a juror. Over the 11 days of this year’s fair, Houstonia artist Linda Hoover will paint a giant mural on the side of the building to direct folks upstairs (read more about that in the Weekend Edition), but one could argue that the 50 pieces of work should be enough of a draw by themselves.
Dominic Molon, the chief curator of the Contemporary Art Museum in St. Louis, had to narrow it down from about 140 submissions.
“It’s a really great exhibit, and one of the things that signifies that is how hard it was to decide,” Molon said. “There were certain things I had to leave out. I was trying to have a balance between different media.”
Molon had fun perusing more mainstream art, rather than the niches explored in his museum’s exhibits.
“I think there’s things I respond to in terms of showing at the museum, but this is a different situation,” he said. “I think of what people will respond to — stuff that shows skill and technical proficiency but is a bit more accessible.
“We have landscapes, abstractions, crazy sculptures, photos of billboards on the interstate. I’m usually focused on a narrow cross-section of contemporary art, and this is interesting — to see what’s striking a nerve with people in the rest of the country. Because a lot of what we exhibit (at the museum) is from the bigger cities.”
Sedalia-area artists are well represented in the “MO 50.” By unofficial count, eight area artists made the cut: Hoover, Marlis Wise, Marcia Azan, Kathy Menefee, Rebecca Limback, Faith Bemiss, Janice Hargrave and Dustin Mothersbaugh.
Madge Gressley, a member of the Sedalia Visual Art Association and the assistant superintendent of the Fine Arts Building, said, “The SVAA is very well represented and we’re thrilled about that.”
Sedalians might submit more work due to the proximity of the fairgrounds, but Molon — who visited the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art during his stay — believes the city has a legitimate arts scene, and having so many pieces in the “MO 50” isn’t a fluke.
“I think having the (Daum) Museum here and being able to see what other artists have done, you have that shared language,” he said.
Fine Arts Building Superintendent Ashley Shane said the whole state showed its artistic prowess: “We had a lot (make the cut) from northeast Missouri, Springfield, Kansas City, St. Louis. Two teachers came in from near Hannibal — both were selected for the ‘50’ — and they brought in pieces by five of their students, and three of those were award winners for the ‘Junior 50.’ So that was an exciting phone call to make. It takes those educators to keep this going.”
After choosing the 50 pieces, Molon also awarded four $800 cash prizes (Brooke Cameron, Joshua Martin, Norleen Nosri and Matt Rahner) and four honorable mentions (Ashlee Embry, Lloyd Grotjan, Dennis Murphy and Peggy Wyman).
Ted Denton, of Marshall, won the third annual State Fair Community College Purchase Award, where the school bought his piece for $500.
From 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily throughout the fair, the Fine Arts Building will display the “MO 50” on the top floor and the “Junior 50” on the main floor.
The top floor will also include an SVAA display and the main floor will feature several pieces that didn’t make the “MO 50.”
The SVAA will provide the artists in residence for the first six days of the fair, starting today. The Warrensburg-based Mid-Missouri Artists will take over for the final five days.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: “MO 50” art exhibit
WHEN: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, Thursday through Aug. 19
WHERE: Fine Arts Building second floor, Missouri State Fair
ADMISSION: Free with gate admission