Arts & Culture

Achterberg Sculpts His Way to Global Award


LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 4, 2009) - Luke Achterberg, recent graduate of the University of Kentucky Department of Art, has been awarded the prestigious International Sculpture Center’s Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award for 2009. Achterberg garnered the international award for his sculpture "Relative."

"Relative," a painted steel sculpture measuring 207 inches long by 88 inches tall by 52 inches wide, is the result of three years of research, work and active study for Achterberg in UK's Master of Fine Arts program. The artist was pleased to earn such coveted recognition for "Relative," one of 15 he completed toward his thesis at UK.

"I was excited to hear that I had won, the International Sculpture Center is a highly renowned and respected organization in the art world," says Achterberg.

The International Sculpture Center (ISC) established the annual Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award program in 1994 to recognize young sculptors and to encourage their continued commitment to the field. It was also designed to draw attention to the sculpture programs of the participating universities, colleges and art schools. The award program’s growing publicity resulted in a record number of participating institutions; including more than 170 universities, colleges and art school sculpture programs from 16 countries for a nominated total of 441 students. A distinguished panel made up of artist and educator Jeanne Jaffe, curator David McFadden and artist Willie Cole selected the 11 winners and 10 honorable mentions through a competitive viewing process of the works submitted. The selection of the winners from a large pool of applicants, including international students, is a great accomplishment and testament to the artistic promise of the students’ work.

"It is a high honor for an organization like the ISC to single out Luke for this award," says Benjamin C. Withers, the department’s chair. "It reflects not only his hard work and original creative talent but also on the dedication of his faculty advisers. It is another sign of the continued growth in quality and reputation of the UK Department of Art."

As winners, the 11 award recipients are currently participating in the "Grounds For Sculpture's Fall/Winter Exhibition," on view through Jan. 10, 2010, in Hamilton, N.J., adjacent to the ISC headquarters. Achterberg's work will also be included in the "Grounds For Sculpture’s 2009 Fall/Winter Exhibitions Catalogue" and was recently featured in the October 2009 issue of the International Sculpture Center’s publication, Sculpture magazine, as well as on the ISC Web site at The work will also be featured in the first of what is expected to become an annual traveling exhibition that will visit arts organizations across the country.

Achterberg, the son of Les Achterberg of Ripon, Wis., and Sandy Toll of Oshkosh, Wis., holds a welding technical diploma from Western Technical College and a bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse. The artist's grandfather and high school art teacher would serve as influences in his interest in becoming a sculptor.

"My Grandfather Wilson was a welder by trade; the affinity for metal started there," says Achterberg. "As well, when I was at Berlin High School I received a Gold Key Award from a Scholastic Art Competition; my art teacher, Mrs. Hanson, politely told me when I graduated, 'You're not done with art yet'."

Achterberg was further influenced to do graduate studies in sculpture after honing his skills working for a year as a certified welder at Mid-City Steel Fabricating in La Crosse, Wis. He selected UK for the facility size and faculty. Achterberg counts several UK faculty/artists as influencing his progression as an artist, including his mentor Garry R. Bibbs, as well as Bobby Scroggins, Hunter Stamps, Arturo Alonzo Sandoval and Jim Wade.  

While at UK, Achterberg received a Kentucky Graduate Scholarship in 2006 and two teaching assistantships. He also won the second commission presented by the Lexington Extraordinary Arts Project, a public art competition, for "Getting Back Up," a 2,000 pound sculpture located at 1725 Harrodsburg Road, in front of Lexington Diagnostic Center and OPEN MRI. Achterberg earned his master's degree this summer.

As a winner of the Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award, Achterberg got the chance to apply for a fully funded opportunity to do research, work and study in Lucerne, Switzerland, at Art St. Urban.

In the future, Achterberg plans to continue making art and will begin teaching sculpture and art appreciation part-time at Morehead State University.