Small Works 2020: It really is the little things in life

Small Works 2020 was recently held from July 28 to Aug. 28 at the University Place Gallery (UPG) and yielded three local winners: Jeffery Donovan, Mary Ellen Judge and Jan Chenoweth.

The regional juried exhibition was sponsored by the Florence Regional Arts Alliance (FRAA), which is a local, non-profit organization that aims to preserve, support and promote the arts community in the Pee Dee and the surrounding area.

The UPG coordinator Colleen Critcher worked closely with the FRAA to host this event. As the FRAA searches for new venues every year for Small Works, Critcher collaborated with them to use UPG as the venue. Critcher said it was “the perfect fit.”

More than 100 entries were submitted to the gallery from artists in North Carolina and South Carolina. The exhibition was named “Small Works” because all of the pieces were 12 inches – hence the title of the exhibit. Thirty artists and their artwork were chosen for the show and Lisa D. Watson, an artist from Savannah, Ga., judged the pieces to determine the winners.

All the winners were South Carolina natives and used different mediums and styles to communicate through their art. Second place winner, FMU alumna and Florence native Mary Ellen Judge used her work to convey the hilarity of modern beauty standards for women. Judge graduated with a Master of Fine Arts in art education.

Judge is a regular contributor to the regional arts scene, regularly participating in shows and exhibitions in Lake City and Florence. She said the exhibits often present unique, creative opportunities.

“It gives you something to do, a goal, specifically for the show,” Judge said. “It is also small, so it presents a challenge.”

The Small Works show has evolved and matured over the years since its inception five years ago; however, COVID-19 disrupted this momentum. As the gallery closed in March, the Small Works 2020 exhibition was originally planned for online viewing only. According to Critcher, the re-opening of the gallery allowed for a physical show, though she kept the online viewing on the website. She even live-streamed the announcement of the winners on Instagram.

Critcher was happy to still be able to connect with viewers.

“Having the work showcased digitally really allowed us to reach our audience during this uncertain time,” Critcher said.

Though the exhibition closed on Aug. 28, the online gallery is still viewable through the GPU website: The upcoming exhibition by Will Penny, titled “Neutral Zone,” will start after Labor Day weekend.