Arts & Culture

Bolivar Gallery Director Named Kentucky’s South Arts Fellow

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photo of South Arts Executive Director Susie Surkamer & Becky Alley
photo of Nick and Becky Alley
photo of "Burn" by Becky Alley
photo of "Murmurations: Battle of Fallujah 2016" by Becky Alley
photo of "Epitaphs for Edwards" by Becky Alley
photo of detail from "Epitaphs for Edwards" by Becky Alley
photo of "Fallen" by Becky Alley
photo of "Unmended" by Becky Alley

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 18, 2017) Becky Alley, artist, lecturer and gallery director of Bolivar Art Gallery at University of Kentucky School of Art and Visual Studies, was named the inaugural South Arts State Fellowship winner for Kentucky. The fellowships recognize one artist in each of nine southern states whose work reflects the best of the visual arts in the South.

“There is a deep well of artistic talent throughout our region,” said Susie Surkamer, executive director of South Arts. “From traditional basket weaving through experimental 3D printing, the creative minds around us are producing brilliant work. The Southern Prize and State Fellowships are our way of celebrating the richness and diversity here in our backyards and shining a light on them for the region and the nation to see.”

Artistic excellence was the sole criterion for selection for the South Arts State Fellowships. The nine fellowship award winners were selected by a jury from 850 visual artists’ submissions in crafts, drawing, experimental, painting, photography, sculpture and mixed media work. As the Kentucky fellowship recipient, Alley was awarded a $5,000 cash prize and competed for the South Arts Southern Prize presented in Atlanta on April 24. For a list of other fellowship recipients, including the Southern Prize winner, visit: www.southarts.org/individual-artists/southern-prize-artist-fellowships/2017-southern-prize-state-fellows/.

“It is an incredible honor to be selected as the Kentucky Fellow,” Alley said. “To be recognized solely for the quality of my work by such an accomplished jury is particularly special, and to be in the company of other artists making such extraordinary work is humbling. I grew up in the South, raised by southern parents and grandparents, and I’m thrilled that South Arts is this invested in celebrating the rich arts of the region.”

Alley’s artwork is process and materials focused, often manifesting itself in private or intimate performance elements and installations that are never really finished. Themes of enduring interest are ritual, memorial, empathy, decay and the sacred. She loves collaboration and, through her creative work, is particularly interested in expanding the roles of self-reflection and meaning in everyday life.

For South Arts, Alley submitted a series of works that are memorials to people who have died or suffered due to war. One piece, “Epitaph for Edwards,” is comprised of 220 books made by the artist, one for each year since America’s founding in 1776. A tally of all conflicts in which American soldiers were killed, each book contains a hand sewn needlepoint page with the name of a single soldier whose name was Edward, which is also the name of Alley’s 2-year-old son. The artist had approximately 40 volunteers help with the stitching, mostly women, and many who were also mothers.

Since earning her bachelor’s degree in printmaking/drawing from Washington University and her master’s degree in studio art from the University of Kansas, Alley has worked as a gallery/exhibitions director in both university and nonprofit gallery settings and has taught courses in drawing, professional practices, exhibition practicum and gallery/curatorial studies. She has curated dozens of exhibitions, designed and implemented a variety of community based arts programming, and led several public lectures and discussions regarding art and art-making.

South Arts, one of the country’s six Regional Arts Organizations, was founded in 1975 to build on the South’s unique heritage and enhance the public value of the arts. South Arts’ work responds to the arts environment and cultural trends with a regional perspective. The organization offers a portfolio of activities designed to address the issues important to the region and to link the South with the nation and the world through the arts. South Arts works in partnership with the state arts agencies of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. Support for South Arts comes from the National Endowment for the Arts, member states, foundations, businesses and individuals.

The UK School of Art and Visual Studies, at the UK College of Fine Arts, is an accredited member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design and offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in the fields of art studioart history and visual studiesart education, and digital media and design.

UK is the University for Kentucky. At UK, we are educating more students, treating more patients with complex illnesses and conducting more research and service than at any time in our 150-year history. To read more about the UK story and how you can support continued investment in your university and the Commonwealth, go to: uky.edu/uk4ky. #uk4ky #seeblue