A short version of my remarks at last week's reception for winners of the Arlene Schnitzer Visual Arts Prize at Portland State University:
It’s difficult to get art prizes right, both in their mission and in their execution. Setting aside the fact that reasonable people may disagree about the merit of the recipients, many art prizes can be critiqued for opaqueness, for placing too much emphasis on valorization, and for being too populist or not populist enough.
The Arlene Schnitzer Visual Arts Prize, on the other hand, gets it right in every respect. The mission of the prize is inclusive in the right ways, by welcoming all forms of art and design and including both undergraduate and graduate applications. But the program is also exclusive in the right way, offering a rigorous competition and exhibition opportunity at a critical point in student’s education. As well, the financial awards are significant, the panel is diverse, and the application and selection process are transparent. The Harold & Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation and PSU's School of Art + Design have given this community extraordinary template for doing an art prize right.
I offer my profound thanks to all the students who applied, for taking the risk of being an artist and of applying for this prize. My gratitude of course to our three winners, Amanda Evans, Chris Freeman and Melodee Dudley for giving us a chance to spend time with your work. And special thanks thanks also to Ryan Collard, Will Elder, Emily Fitzgerald, Zach Gough, Maggie Heath and Amanda Wilson, who along with other applicants made this a difficult decision by presenting us with such an artistically rich set of applications from which to select.