These unique, rainy day pieces from Rick Legge were made using gold leaf.
By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter
With movies continually being pushed back because the theaters aren’t open, Broadway shows being cancelled until May 2021, and schools having to cut electives like art and music because of budget issues, the arts are having an especially difficult time due to COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdowns that have come from it. Luckily for the people of Medfield, while there are new mask and social distancing rules, the Zullo Gallery’s Annual Juried Exhibition was not one of these COVID casualties, and is running, in person at the gallery, through November 7.
If you’ve never been, the Juried Exhibition is distinct from the other shows the gallery puts on in a number of ways. Most shows tend to feature one, two or three artists, but the juried show features the work of many more. Essentially, anyone that wants to can submit up to three pieces, which are judged by an art professional (this year it was former Medfield Public Schools Director of Fine Arts Susan Parker, an instructor of drawing and painting at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum) as worthy for the show or not (there’s a suggested, but not mandatory twenty dollar donation as an entry fee). Because of this approach, according to Director Bill Pope, you get a huge variety of artists, styles and media in one show.
“We put on five or six shows a year, but the thing that excites me about this exhibit are the number of people that are in it and the variety of artwork that is here. We often have one-person, two-person or three-person shows, but this is the chance for any artist to get their work in here. It’s a competition. We do a call for art during the late spring/summer. We encourage artists to enter up to three pieces, and then in August I bring in a guest juror every year - somebody I think can do a good job in judging artwork - and out of the two or three hundred pieces that were entered, they pick what they think are the strongest, say seventy pieces for example, and that becomes the juried show. It’s a wide variety of artwork - you have new artists, you have established artists - so my favorite thing about this show is the variety and the quality of the artwork, as well as the diversity of subject matter.”
There’s certainly a wide variety of pieces in the show. While Pope said so many of the pieces come from working artists and there was no way to know if they were made during the free time COVID allowed, a few of the pieces, including “Early Covid,” a kinetic sculpture from Jenifer Bartle, were inspired by the pandemic.
While Pope noted new artists were always welcome to contact the gallery if they’re looking to showcase their work, because of the open submission format, the juried show often showcases artists whose work is completely new to the gallery. While COVID slightly blunted that this year, there were still some artists whose work Pope had never seen before.
“Usually in any given show, maybe thirty percent of the people are new. We’ve been doing this for 26 years, so we certainly get a lot of return entries. Sometimes people get in, sometimes they don’t. And some years, those people don’t enter. But we always try to find new people to connect with. In a regular year, I promote this in a New England art magazine, we take out ads, we send materials to art schools and art organizations, but we didn’t do any of that this year. We basically just used our mailing list, which still has about 2,000 people on it, and did our call for art that way. But that’s largely going to be people that have been here before. But there are still, out of the say fifty artists that are in here, four or five faces that I’ve never seen before.”
This show is also a great way to get Pope himself to notice your work and establish a relationship with it. He noted that many people have made their debut in this show, only for him to enjoy and appreciate their work and for them to work their way up to smaller shows (fewer artists, but more of their pieces).
While it’s great to open a show and have boards of health okay your having one, with any in-person event, the question is whether people will show up or be too scared to do so. For the juried exhibit, Pope said attendance has been very good, although this show is unique in both reputation and number of artists, which helps bolster the number of attendees.
“Attendance has been pretty good. I would say it’s actually higher than usual, although this show is one of our most popular during the year - I think simply due the fact that you have 45 different artists displayed who all live within 45 minutes to an hour away. The people that follow their work, their friends, their family, and people who know about this show and the quality and diversity of the art will come out to see it because we’ve done it for 26 years, so they know it’s going to be a fun and exciting show.”
The pieces are available for purchase. Ranging from around $150 all the way up to $7,000, some of the pieces had been sold already, unsurprisingly, including the Fenway-inspired acrylic on canvas “Floating Citgo Signs in Kenmore Square.”
While there is no grand prize winner, there is the matter of which artist gets the famed spot on the exhibit handout. That spot went to Adrian Tio’s “Amor,” which Pope believed should send the best message in these trying times.
“First of all, it’s a really, nice, high-quality piece of artwork” Pope explained. “And second of all, I really enjoyed the idea of hands and the heart. I thought it was a good message to send.”