Adriana Gomez's Libertad II (Freedom II)EXPAND
Adriana Gomez's Libertad II (Freedom II)
Courtesy of YoungArts

National YoungArts Week Shows Off Miami's Rising Visual Artists

National YoungArts' design, photography, and visual arts finalists will be in the spotlight at both the YoungArts Gallery and the Jewel Box in the National YoungArts Foundation building this Friday. Their thought-provoking artwork will be displayed for all to see in the annual Design, Photography & Visual Arts Exhibition.

The opening is a YoungArts Week highlight that brings artists, master teachers, and the community to the YoungArts Campus. This year's show will be one for the ages, say Rosie Gordon-Wallace, who curated the show, and Loni Johnson, one of four Visual Arts National Selection panelists who selected the works.

Both were impressed with the artists and their work and echoed sentiments of bright careers in the arts for all the finalists.

In total, 41 works in design, photography, and visual arts will be displayed. Gordon-Wallace chose two to three pieces from each artist. But before she could select those works, Johnson and three other panelists pored over nearly 130 portfolios, which were narrowed down from 1,600 applicants.

Hone Selassie's Labyrinth of the Mind
Hone Selassie's Labyrinth of the Mind
Courtesy of YoungArts

“It’s my third year as a panelist,” says Johnson, a local artist who began working with YoungArts in 2010. “It’s a blind adjudication. It’s strictly about the work and how strong their voice speaks through the work.”

That means Johnson and the other three panelists meet the artists only after they’ve been selected. Therefore, the work speaking for these applicants is extremely important and what sets this competition apart from others. “We’re allowing the work to resonate and to live,” Johnson says.

Just as impressive as the artwork is the fact that the four panelists choose the work over a three-day weekend. "We come together. We duke it out," Johnson says. “We truly advocate for those artists we love, and because we respect each other as panelists, it’s a great process.”

The work then turns to this year’s curator, Rosie Gordon-Wallace, a fixture in Miami’s art community who also curated last year’s exhibition for YoungArts Miami, one of three regional programs YoungArts organizes for the winners. The artwork has resonated with her so deeply it’s truly moved her emotionally.

“I couldn’t get the images out of my head. And remember — I haven’t met the artists yet. Even the local artists, I purposely have not met them yet,” Gordon-Wallace says. There are 11 finalists from South Florida, hailing from New World School of the Arts, Design & Architecture Senior High, Miami Arts Charter, and Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts.

Jonathan Lovett's Forbidden Fruit No. 2EXPAND
Jonathan Lovett's Forbidden Fruit No. 2
Courtesy of YoungArts

This year's exhibit is titled "Infinite Possibilities: An Exhibition of Works by 2019 YoungArts Finalists." The annual show is not usually named, but this year it was important given “a lot of the work was very hopeful, where artists dealt with issues of family and love and daily struggles in those areas," Gordon-Wallace says. "Their bravery in discussing their daily struggles is shown in some difficult work that I’m really proud to present, especially at this age and stage in their lives.”

Gordon-Wallace hopes to spark a conversation with audiences at the opening by using the entire space. “I want the artists to feel valued," she says. "We have these local artists that we’ve grown from our charters, and the fact that is national is very prestigious.”

Johnson is excited about the future for the artists. "They’re soon to be art colleagues and folks that I may collaborate with. They’re unapologetic about their work, and because of that, I can see this work being displayed right after this show is done.”

“Infinite Possibilities: An Exhibition of Works by 2019 YoungArts Finalists.” Opens 7:30 p.m. Friday, January 11, at YoungArts Foundation, 2100 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; youngarts.org. Admission is free. RSVP via eventbrite.com.

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