Pensacola, Florida
Monday October 20th 2014

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The Social Network

By Jennie McKeon

Today, the world has almost unlimited means of communicating. Social media sites are the most popular forms of communication, but art is the oldest.

Artel’s latest juried exhibition, “Art as Social Discourse,” explores how the art of expression has become even more powerful over the years.

“We hope to showcase how artists, mostly local, can effectively communicate a commentary on society and do so through non-traditional art techniques,” said Artel President, Suzanne Robbert. “By creating a theme such as the current ‘Art as Social Discourse,’ the gallery is providing a forum for these artists to work outside their comfort zone.”

Fifty-three works were submitted to the volunteer-run gallery. Dave Zimmerman, an art critic and fine-arts writer for “USA Today” and other publications, was the juror for this exhibit.

“Each juror has their own approach in assessing and selecting, Mr. Zimmerman was very careful and thoughtful in his assessment, scrutinizing each work with deliberation,” said Lee Courtney, exhibition director.

Courtney notes that the jury process varies with each juror, and while some know exactly what they are looking for, some take much more time. Zimmerman was an even balance.

“My view of David during the process was that he was intent and thoughtful, but certainly not tortured by the process,” he said.

Courtney and Zimmerman weren’t looking for anything specific.

“I would say we weren’t looking for any specific form of communication per se, Artel’s mission statement indicates that we are looking for experimental contemporary artwork,” Courtney said. “That can be approached in many ways, perhaps even with an ancient form of communication.”

Nor were they looking for a specific message.

“Art has been used as an expression of the state or society or culture—social discourse—probably since art began,” Courtney said. “That discourse can and has provided commentary on the good, bad, and the ugly. What we … look for is the vision of the artists.”

Among the usual awards such as Best of Show and Honorable Mentions, Artel bestows one work per exhibit with Edgiest. Artel’s tagline is “Art with an Edge,” after all.

“We created the edgiest award a number of years ago to try and recognize those who push the limits the most,” Courtney said. “I often say that one must consider where we are—Pensacola. What is pushing the limits here may not necessarily be ‘edgy’ in New York, however we have had many artists who I believe could hold their own there.”

Complementing the main exhibit is the Vault installation: the Manna Food Bank Youth Story Mural. On Earth Day, Manna Food Bank invited local children’s artistic response to hunger in our world.

“The gallery is divided into three exhibition spaces. At every opportunity we aim to have those three shows complement each other,” Robbert explained. “When Manna proposed a youth exhibit centered on hunger, exhibiting it during ‘Art as Social Discourse’ was the obvious choice.”

In the Award Alcove, is an exhibit by Margaret Warren, a Best of Show winner from a previous exhibit, entitled “Earthlings, Aliens…and Other Creatures of Fate.”

“The current Award Alcove artist, Margaret Warren, traditionally creates work that gives a commentary on society today, another obvious choice,” Robbert said. “The themes of the three rooms do not have to coincide, but it is powerful when they do.”

Opening up the minds of the local community is a passion for the Artel Board of Directors.

“We hope that visitors to Artel walk away with a new appreciation of the creative mind,” Robbert said. “The community may see a style, composition or medium they’ve never seen before visiting Artel. That generates a discussion and hopefully a new understanding of ‘What is art?’”

Hope Mastroianni, volunteer director, sees the impact Artel has.

“I see it on Gallery Night when we get a lot of people that normally don’t come into galleries,” she said. “You see it in their faces. ‘Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one,’ Stella Adler said it so well. What could be more rewarding?”

Robbert attributes Artel’s 19 successful years to the hard working volunteers and the “public’s desire for contemporary, experimental art.” When a gallery is run entirely by volunteers, it has to be gratifying when the community gets excited by the exhibits as much as the volunteers who scramble to make them happen do.

“Volunteering at Artel rewards me every time I walk into the gallery,” Robbert said. “When artists or visitors get excited about an upcoming show or get inspired by a current show I also get excited, it’s very contagious.”

‘ART AS SOCIAL DISCOURSE’
WHEN: Now until August 24. Gallery Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
WHERE: Artel Gallery, 223 S. Palafox
COST: Free
DETAILS: artelgallery.org or 432-3080