The (art) show goes on, and visual artist awards are announced

2020 Arts NC State Visual Artist Award winners (L-R): “Der Fall” by Jornell Bacon, ribbed vase by Jake Goodnight, “Farm Kid” by Grayson Morrow. Links to the full images are available in the text.


“The show must go on” most commonly refers to a theatrical production. This year, in the midst of online classes and working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic, one show that managed to open on schedule – albeit virtually – was the annual Student Art Sale at NC State University, presented by Arts NC State.

Arts NC State has been purchasing original artwork of NC State students each spring since 2001, with permanent collection pieces on display throughout Talley Student Union and selected locations on campus. Five years ago, the sale expanded to a public event, a one-day pop-up gallery open to art buyers from campus and the community. All proceeds from the sale go directly to the student artists.

When it became obvious that the annual sale scheduled for April 17 in Talley Student Union could not take place as planned, Amy Sawyers-Williams, Arts NC State’s coordinator for outreach and engagement (and manager of the sale), pivoted to an online model.

Thirty-five students embraced their entrepreneurial spirit and created individual sales sites on platforms like Etsy. Sawyers-Williams mentored the student artists and created a Flickr site as the portal for the sale. It worked.

“It was inspiring to see so many students not only coming out to participate in the sale but learning how to set up online shops and sell their work virtually, many for the first time,” says Sawyers-Williams. “We all came together to make this sale successful despite a pandemic. It demonstrates our think and do mindset at NC State.”

Visual Artist Awards

In 2017, Arts NC State received a generous gift to create a visual artist award for the annual sale, to recognize NC State students for their outstanding work in the visual arts. In subsequent years, award categories were added, and are now available in three areas, for 2D, 3D, and computer-rendered art or photography. The selected NC State student artists each receive a $500 cash prize, their pieces receive prominent display in Talley Student Union during the following academic year, and they are honored at an annual arts award ceremony. This award is made possible by the Roxanne Hicklin Visual Artist Award Endowment.

Raleigh artist Ann Roth served as the visual artist award judge for the 2020 sale. Roth was a weaver for over 22 years, in and around holding various arts administration, gallery management, curatorial and teaching positions. She was a curator at NC State’s Gallery of Art & Design (now the Gregg Museum) from 1996-2001 before leaving to teach color theory and manage the art gallery at Meredith College until 2014.

Three NC State students have been selected as recipients of the 2020 Visual Artist Awards.

Jornell Bacon, a senior in industrial design, is the winner of the 2020 award in 2D art for his piece titled “Der Fall.” An international student from Berlin, Bacon has submitted work for the Student Art Sale all four years as a student at NC State. In fact, two of his earlier works – “Canal Grande, Venezia 2070” and “Furano” – were purchased for the Arts NC State permanent collection in previous sales. Commenting on Bacon’s 2020 oil work, Roth notes that “the artist shows empathy with the tree forms and water reflections, subtle colors have individuality and strength and are layered skillfully to create depth and mystery.”

Jake Goodnight is the winner of the 2020 visual artist award in 3D art for his ribbed vase. A junior in chemical and biomolecular engineering, Goodnight began his training in ceramics through classes at Waterworks Visual Arts Center in his hometown of Salisbury, North Carolina. Once he arrived at NC State, he was introduced to the Crafts Center where he developed his skill in ceramics through a variety of classes and workshops. In his sophomore year, Goodnight was hired as a student instructor and began teaching introductory classes. For the last three years, he has been learning, teaching, and expanding his body of work incorporating slip decoration, unusual forms, and eye-catching glaze combinations in works that are both functional and beautiful. In her comments, Ann Roth notes that Jake Goodnight’s vase “shows the hand that made it. The slight irregularity of the form conveys the plasticity of the clay. The markings are cryptic, as if they are trying to communicate a message. Successful red is hard to achieve in glazing.”

Junior Grayson Morrow is the 2020 visual artist award in digital art for her photograph titled “Farm Kid.” Morrow’s college career began at Parsons The New School in New York City, where – in addition to being a student – she “worked for fashion magazines, made great friends, and survived off dollar pizza.” She eventually moved back to North Carolina to study engineering at NC State, rediscovered her love for photography, and is now majoring in economics. About Morrow’s winning photograph, Roth notes the “deep, lustrous values of blacks and whites, play between textures and shapes, [and the] story being told by the relationship of the child to the other figures in the picture that is open to interpretation.”

The show goes on (and on)

While it is difficult to replicate the experience of seeing and buying art in person, this year’s online Student Art Sale created an opportunity: the portal to original artwork created by NC State students will continue to be available. On the Arts NC State Flickr site, you can view the artwork included in the sale, find pieces that may still be available for purchase, and see new work that student artists have added to their online shops.