Better Than Best in Show

Sixteenth annual exhibit is dripping with prize opportunities

Everyone’s a winner: Last year’s painting by Catherine Langsdorf, You’re Not Alone (left), addressed the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy and won the One Planet/One People award. Right: Another painting from last year, Song of the Sycamore, by Molly Angel, has been favored by event coordinators for its vivid color and composition.

Sometimes art shows are curated to the extreme. Consider themes like “Pinhole Camera Photography Conducted in National Park Cave Systems,” “Contemporary Warehouse Graffiti Approved by the City and Disdained by Hardcore Street Artists,” and similar fringe endeavors.

 Engaging as those ideas are, there’s something refreshing in the catchall approach practiced by The Arts Council of Henderson County. For the last 16 summers, the org has urged local artists to simply bring their subjectively “best” work to the table. Currently that work goes into four categories — 2D, 3D, fine craft, and photography — juried by four separate judges. The hope is to win recognition and even a little something from the swelling bounty of cash prizes.

“Awards have increased over the years,” acknowledges Patty Smyers, the Arts Council’s managing director. First through Third prizes and honorable mentions are still bestowed; however, “we stopped giving one ‘Best of Show’ award a few years ago. It didn’t seem fair to choose one piece across such a wide variety of work.” So now, “many additional awards are being offered to offset the loss,” Smyers explains.

Among them is the People’s Choice Award, the Artists’ Choice Award, and the brand-new Chrysalis Award that honors an emerging artist. (“We bring together work from both beginners and hobbyists, and display those pieces with work from seasoned artists who have been showing their work for years,” notes Smyers.) The One People/One Planet Award, sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Hendersonville, gives $250 to the artist “whose work best represents a world community recognizing the inherent worth and dignity of all beings, and the oneness and interdependence of all life,” according to a mission statement.

If that seems like a tall order, Liz Curtis of the congregation reminds Bold Life that “Bring Us Your Best” was originally hosted by another UUFH friend, Rita Wax, to honor her late daughter, Lynn, and then her husband Ira, after he passed. When Rita herself died, her son Bill Wax continued the sponsorship.

A past member of UUFH, Norm Koski, brainstormed the One People/One Planet award, reveals Curtis. Over the past 10 years, winners have “expressed a view of life in uniquely creative ways, and [the work] has been anything but typical,” she says.

Last year’s winner, Catherine Langsdorf, used calligraphy in a painting to make a memorial of sorts for the shooting victims at Sandy Hook Elementary. “Her use of a large arc called to mind the familiar phrase ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,’” says Curtis.  

The judges were so moved, in fact, that they bought the painting and hung it in the Fellowship’s foyer.  

“Some years, it’s a stretch to find just the right entry for this award,” notes UUFH President Jan Partin. “Last year was easy.”

The Arts Council of Henderson County opens Bring Us Your Best XVI with an awards reception on Friday, Aug. 2, 5-7pm, at the Blue Ridge Conference Hall of Blue Ridge Community College (180 West Campus Drive, Flat Rock). Free. The exhibit is on view weekdays, 10am-4pm,  from Monday, Aug. 5 through Friday, Aug. 16. For more information, call 828-693-8504 or see

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