Arts & Culture

UK's most talented visual artists take home awards, scholarships at Open Studio 2023


LEXINGTON, Ky. (Dec. 14, 2023) —​ At the end of each fall semester, University of Kentucky School of Art and Visual Studies (SA/VS) celebrates its best and brightest young artists, educators and scholars as part of the Carey Ellis Juried Student Show and awards ceremony presented at the school’s annual visual art celebration, Open Studio, which made its much anticipated in-person return this year on Dec. 1, in the Bolivar Art Gallery

Carey Ellis (1935-1997) was an alumna with two degrees in history from UK who was committed to lifelong learning. When she died in 1997, she was pursuing a master’s degree in art history and working as a part-time instructor for the school. Later, her daughter Clay F. Ellis Peniston received her bachelor’s in art history and visual studies in 2017. Ellis was well-known in Lexington as an advocate for the arts and education. For over two decades, the Carey Ellis juried student show has honored her memory by celebrating student achievement with scholarship awards. 

As part of the annual juried show, the best work from three undergraduate degree areas — Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts and Bachelor of Science — was recognized. The winners were selected by multidisciplinary artist, educator and curator Melissa Vandenberg who serves as an associate professor of art at Eastern Kentucky University and director of the EKU Giles Gallery. 

This year’s Carey Ellis Bachelor of Arts award winners are: 

  • Campbell Fair, an art studio senior from Hilton Head, South Carolina, who took first place for “IUD”;

  • Cate Wollert, an art studio senior minoring in digital media design and art history from Goshen, Kentucky, who took second place for “my apartment kitchen”; and

  • Annie Vicary, an art studio senior from Lexington, who took third place for “Divine Royalty: The History of Drag Artistry.”  

This year’s Carey Ellis Bachelor of Fine Arts award winners are: 

  • Josh Mitchem, an art studio senior from Nicholasville, Kentucky, who took first place for “Queer Depths”;

  • Charity Johnson, an art studio senior from Middlesboro, Kentucky, who took second place for “Papaw Would Be Proud”; and 

  • Larkyn Rogers, an art studio senior from Lexington, who took third place for “2023 Exhumation.”  

This year’s Carey Ellis Bachelor of Science Digital Media Design award winners are: 

  • Hong (Harry) Min, a digital media design senior from Goshen, who took first place for “The Heart Pot”; 

  • Anna Zheng, a digital media design sophomore double majoring in arts administration from London, Kentucky, who took second place for “Perched”; and 

  • Shylo Silvenar, a digital media design senior from Lexington, who took third place for “Apricity: The Warmth of the Sun in Winter.” 

The 2023 Carey Ellis Best Art History and Visual Studies Paper Award was awarded to Sophie Wingo for “You ought to see the corridas!”: Normalizing the Franco Regime in the 1960s through Tourism Promotion.” Wingo is an art history and visual studies senior double majoring in Spanish from Versailles, Kentucky. Honorable mention goes to art history and visual studies sophomore Lexi Taylor, who is minoring in French and world religion, from Frankfort, Kentucky, for "Banksy: Street Art Activism and its Effectiveness.” 

Art studio alumna Brianna Armstrong (BFA '20) recently established the Alumni Award for Achievement (Big Steppa Award), in recognition of her School of Art and Visual Studies experience, in the spirit of giving back to others, and to help encourage current students. The Alumni Award for Achievement Fund (Big Steppa Award) provides support to School of Art and Visual Studies undergraduate students to encourage their fearless creativity and determination to work in their chosen medium or mediums. The fund provides two annual award(s) to benefit undergraduate student(s) in textiles and other media.  

This year’s Big Steppa Award for Textiles went to Charity Johnson, and the Big Steppa Award for Any Media/Mixed Media went to Jason Kash, an art studio senior with a double major in philosophy from Bowling Green, Kentucky. 

Other SA/VS honors presented as part of the awards ceremony included the Theophilia Joan Oexmann Original Art Awards given to Larkyn Rogers, Jayda Johnson, an art studio senior minoring in art history and African American studies from Lexington, and Charlotte Burgard, an art studio senior double majoring in arts administration with a minor in art history from London, Kentucky. The SA/VS faculty presented the Oexmann Awards to students who showed great promise in their work through creativity and originality. 

The Ross Zirkle Memorial Art Studio Award was presented to Roberto Varillas, a digital media design senior who is minoring in art history from Lexington. Created in memory of faculty member Ross Zirkle, funds for this award were raised by donations from family, friends and former students of Zirkle. This award is presented to a student who is studying printmaking or drawing, and demonstrates qualities of artistic excellence, hard work and interest in helping the community, like Zirkle. 

This year's Helen A. Byrd Art Undergraduate Scholarship was awarded to Anna Zheng. This scholarship recognizes a student who exhibits exceptional drawing talent and quality design; potential as a career artist and/or teacher; and academic achievement. 

The Dale Johnson Endowed Scholarship Award was presented to art studio sophomore Kaden Caudill of Lexington. This award is given to an Eastern Kentucky student working in decorative and functional arts. 

The Arturo Alonzo Sandoval Fiber Award was presented to Josh Mitchem for “Queer Depths.” This award, presented by the retired Alumni Endowed Professor of Art Arturo Alonzo Sandoval, is given to artists whose work reflects the significant use of fiber.  

The Cheryl Kelly Haffler Memorial Scholarship was awarded to Sophie Budd, an art education senior from Louisville, Kentucky, and Abbi Hale, an art education senior from Stanford, Kentucky. This honor recognizes academic and creative excellence and is presented to students who display a dedication to learning and a passion for the arts, while playing an active role in the community. 

Since 2006, the Center for Craft has invested in the next generation by awarding 10 emerging craft artists $15,000 in unrestricted funds and providing them with a network of support to build a foundation for future success with the Windgate-Lamar Fellowship. UK is one of 100 colleges and universities across the United States to nominate two undergraduate graduating seniors with exemplary skill in craft to compete for the fellowship. This prestigious fellowship is one of the largest awards offered nationally. Two UK alumnae have won this award in the past: Andrea Clark (BFA 2013) and Amy Hoagland (BFA 2016). This year’s nominations went to Charlotte Burgard and Jayda Johnson. 

The UK School of Art and Visual Studies, part of the College of Fine Arts, offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in the fields of art studio, art history and visual studies, art education, curatorial studies and digital media design. 

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.