May 15, 2009

In Practice, a juried art contest exploring the intersection of the arts and the life of the mind, is underway. The contest, sponsored by the University of Chicago Arts Council, is open to all University of Chicago students. Entries may be submitted through June 5, 2009.

“We want to celebrate the creativity that’s going on all over campus every day, both obvious and not so obvious,” says Theaster Gates, director of arts programming and development with the Office of the Provost. “Our students usually showcase their art on blog sites or during student events like Festival of the Arts (FOTA), or in other forums they create, but with the creation of the new website we want to share with the virtual community some of the amazing practices that are being developed by our students. We also want to show our students that we appreciate the creative work they do.”

The Competition

The In Practice competition seeks art that expresses divergent viewpoints, compelling stories, and thoughtful reflections in the form of significant art. The competition is organized around three arts events chosen as springboards or starting points for student artists to create something new: a series of conversations with acclaimed installation artist Kara Walker (May 11-13); “FOTA Moments” (Annual Student Festival of the Arts May 9-15); and “Art in Unexpected Places,” an ongoing point of inspiration to encourage students to look for artistic expression all around them.

Students are invited to submit original artwork (audio, film, photography, music, installation, video, and short writings) that interacts with, “touches”, or is inspired by one of three themes. Details are available at

“We’re looking for students who can frame their work in the very best ways possible for a virtual audience,” Gates says. “We’re looking for the best three minutes of a video versus the full two hours, for example.”

Though plans for the virtual exhibition don’t include a physical one, it’s not out of the question that some day such a physical show might emerge. “For now,” says Gates, “we hope that the kind of art that is produced through this competition showcases the students here for students who may be considering coming to the University of Chicago, and tells them something about what our students are thinking.”