Lexington artist Alley among nine to win $5,000 South Arts State Fellowship

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Becky Alley of Lexington has received a $5,000 State Fellowship from South Arts, making her one of nine artists to receive recognition from the regional arts organization of which the Kentucky Arts Council is a member.

South Arts, a nonprofit regional arts organization, was founded in 1975 to build on the south’s unique heritage and enhance the public value of the arts. The State Fellowship recipients were recognized at a South Arts awards ceremony in Atlanta. One fellowship was awarded to an artist from each of the nine South Arts member states.

The South Arts State Fellowships acknowledge, support and celebrate the highest quality artistic work created in the American South. From January through March 2017, more than 850 visual artists submitted work for consideration, and a panel of jurors reviewed each application with the sole criterion of artistic excellence to determine the nine State Fellows.

“It’s still hard to believe it’s happened,” Alley said. “It’s one thing to have people who know you and like your work, because they associate you with your work. It’s another thing when people you don’t even know award you a prize based on the merits of your work. Considering the number of applicants and the credentials of the jurors, it’s incredible.”

Alley, director of the University of Kentucky’s Bolivar Gallery, has been an artist for about 20 years. She said her role as an arts administrator has made it a challenge to maintain the level of production necessary for a studio artist, but for the past year-and-a-half she made a concerted effort to focus on her own work.

“I produced work that was the most authentic work I’d ever made. Not that I won’t improve or make other work that speaks to things I care about, but there’s something about the last year-and-a-half that I was making work that was a reflection of me the way it hadn’t before,” Alley said. “Art should always involve uncertainty, but I had a newfound confidence and was able to express myself, ‘Yeah, this is what I want to say.'”

The work Alley submitted to South Arts for consideration was a series of works that are memorials to people who have died or suffered because of war. One of her pieces, a 2016 work titled “Epitaph for Edwards,” incorporates 220 books made by the artist, one for each year since America’s founding in 1776. It provides a historic 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.

“It was important to me that those elements correspond to an individual. I’m not interested in abstracting those numbers,” Alley said.

Alley had about 40 volunteers help with the stitching, mostly women, and many who were also mothers.

“When I asked for volunteers, I just wanted people to help me,” Alley said. “They had this emotional response to it, though, taking time and care for these Edwards we don’t even know. It was a powerful experience for them, and was an unexpected product of the piece.”

“Kentucky is fortunate to have an artist of Becky’s caliber representing the Commonwealth,” said Lydia Bailey Brown, Kentucky Arts Council executive director. “We’re excited to see her thoughtful, outstanding work get the recognition it deserves.”

Other State Fellowship recipients include:

* Pete Schulte, Alabama
* Noelle Mason, Florida
* Masud Olufani, Georgia
* Joey Slaughter, Louisiana
* Coulter Fussell, Mississippi
* Stephanie J. Woods, North Carolina
* Herb Parker, South Carolina
* Georgann DeMille, Tennessee

In addition to support from the Kentucky Arts Council, the State Fellowships are supported by the Alabama State Council on the Arts; Atlanta Contemporary Art Center; Joanne Calhoun; Citizens for Florida Arts Inc.; Cultural Council of Palm Beach County; Cyberwoven; Evans General Contractors; Arnold and Fran Gellman; Georgia Council for the Arts; J. Martin Lett; Louisiana Division of the Arts; CJ Lyons’ Buy a Book, Make a Difference; MailChimp; Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs; Mississippi Arts Commission; North Carolina Arts Council; Scott and Terry Peterson; South Carolina Arts Commission; Tennessee Arts Commission; Pat and Susie VanHuss; and powered by The Hambidge Center.

For more information on South Arts or the State Fellowships, visit this site.

From Kentucky Arts Council Communications

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