Art ‘Olympics’ Promote Community and Playful Competition
By Colleen Kearney Rich
The Olympic spirit hit some earlier than others this year. This spring the School of Art (SoA) organized its first art Olympics as a way to encourage friendly competition and community within the school.
The SoA Olympics pitted teams of students and faculty members, all named after primary colors, against each other in timed competitions involving painting, sculpture, graphic design, photography, and printmaking.
Teams were designed to cross mediums and involve students from each of the main concentrations within the school—sculpture, painting/drawing, photography, graphic design/new media, and printmaking—so no team would have a distinct advantage in any category.
The event was the brainchild of Sean Salyards, a Mason photography professor and founder of SoA Print Studio. Salyards had participated in a similar competition while studying and teaching at Indiana University.
“I wanted to start something at Mason that would strengthen the fellowship and community amongst art students, faculty, staff, and alumni,” says Salyards.
But first he had to mobilize the students. Salyards was able to get several of the school’s student organizations interested in the project. The planning group, which included members of the organizations Focus Group, AIGA GMU, and the Printmakers Guild, met weekly throughout the spring semester to get the games off the ground.
“I was really blessed to work with committed and passionate students who volunteered a significant amount of time and energy,” says Salyards. “It was through their hard work that the inaugural SoA Olympics was successful.”
They also made sure there was artistic diversity among the judges, recruiting a faculty member from each concentration area as well as some administrators. The judges for the competition were Lynne Constantine, Edgar Endress, Peggy Feerick, Helen Frederick, Chawky Frenn, Adam Bradley, and Susie Mueller.
The event was incredibly successful. More than 150 people showed up to watch the students sculpt with candy and organize a fashion photo shoot in a matter of minutes. “We had amazing attendance numbers that were beyond our expectations,” says Salyards. “Not only did the event promote fellowship, but the art competitions were wildly entertaining for all those in attendance.”
The Red Team was victorious, and art students Kirsten Balaban, Margo Elsayd, Tarryn Lemmer, Arthur Reinaltt, and Steve Skowron took home their version of the gold. Actually it was a trophy that is on display in the Art and Design Building.
Fortunately Mason art students don’t have to wait two years or four years for their next chance to compete. Salyards says a second art Olympics is planned for the coming school year.