Providence campus celebrates sea with ‘Ocean View’ exhibit, youth art competition

Today, Thursday, is the last day of The University of Rhode Island Providence Campus urban arts and culture programs monthly art exhibit in the campus’ lobby gallery.

This month’s exhibit is titled ‘Ocean View’ Exhibit and Youth Art Competition according to Steven Pennell, the coordinator for the URI urban arts and culture program.

Pennell said the idea for April’s theme came from a project from URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO) around two years ago. He said he had a conversation with the GSO because they were interested in doing an art competition related to the ocean. Because of COVID-19, the idea was pushed back a little because of all of the planning involved in getting around 200 artworks from students. 

Professional artists were invited to submit work about the ocean, resulting in about 50 additional art pieces, according to Pennell.

There were first, second and third place winners in different grade categories, including grades K-2, grades 3-5, grades 6-8, and grades 9-12, which can be viewed in person or in a virtual gallery.

“So that was a really wonderful experience, we had youth artists meeting professional artists having their work displayed alongside the professional artists,” Pennell said. “And in some cases, a student artist kind of fell in love with a piece of professional artist work, and I put the student in touch with the artists and it’s just a wonderful exchange of professional artists inspiring the students and honestly, of the students inspiring the professional artists.”

For the youth competition, Pennell said students had to all submit two-dimensional works to be judged fairly, but with the professional artists, there were drawings, paintings, ceramics, sculptures and multimedia presentations.

One of the professional artists featured in the exhibit is Kathy Hodge, who said she’s been drawing her whole life but got more serious about art as a teenager when she got into her parent’s oil paints.

“My parents actually went to RISD and they still had some oil paints kicking around,” Hodge said. “So, I just picked them up and started painting in oils, and I guess I just never stopped.”

Pennell said that he wanted to include Hodge in this exhibit because of her experience with artist residencies in national parks and forests, where she was able to live in national parks and pursue artistic endeavors about the forest 14 times.

“She always does a great deal of research so that she understands the environments she’s going to be in,” Pennell said. “So, it’s not just pretty pictures of nature, but it’s really, she’s looking with educated eyes… so there’s a deeper level to her work than the stunning nature of her painting.”

Hodge said that during one of her artist residencies in Alaska, she went out with forest rangers and camped in Prince William Sound, a body of water in the Gulf of Alaska.

“They put a shrimp net down to get some shrimp for dinner actually, and when they pulled it up, there were these really big orange shrimp and blue ropes and all the colors were just beautiful,” Hodge said. “So I took a photograph of that and that’s where the painting came from.”

Pennell said that the exhibit has been “tremendously successful” and hopes to see similar projects happening every other year.

“The artwork is really stunning and inspiring, but it’s about art and science together and art in education and also the exchange of ideas from scientists and artists and young people,” Pennell said.For more information on the exhibit, visit the URI events page.