SOUTHFIELD, MI – A self-taught painter whose idea to incorporate a children’s jacks theme into his art work had been percolating for 30 years was chosen as the winner of the 2015 MI Great Artist online competition.
Clawson artist Kenneth Hershenson, 62-years-old, smiled broadly as he was presented with a check for $1,500 by Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson during a reception Tuesday evening at Park West Gallery in Southfield. Hershenson’s winning entry was a series of acrylic on canvas paintings of children’s jacks he called, “I DO Know Jack!”
“This is validation for working all of these years, for getting to do my passion,” Hershenson said.
A throng of Hershenson supporters and family cheered enthusiastically as Patterson announced the winner. Patterson lauded Hershenson and the other four finalists, thanking them for being part of the competition – now in its fourth year – and congratulating them for the inspired work they created.
“I’m in awe of all of you and the incredible works you create,” Patterson said. “This competition gets bigger and better every year, which you can see by the talented people who stand before you.”
Hershsenson spent much of his professional life working in architectural design and illustration, including stints with Disneyland and designing Japan stores for Starbucks while living in Seattle. He has participated in many juried art shows, winning awards in watercolor, drawing and painting. His “I DO Know Jack!” series was in the final top 25 public vote, round one (out of nearly 1,000 entries) in ArtPrize 7, the largest international art competition and exhibition.
Hershsenson thanked Patterson and Park West Gallery for sponsoring an event that celebrates artists and gives them a forum to display their work. The prize package for the finalists is more than $16,000.
“It’s so tough for artists to get their work out there,” he said. “We’re our own marketers, managers. We have to get the word out. This (MI Great Artist) gets us in front of people, gets more eyes on our work.”
The other finalists (with their medium and hometown) were:
- Meredith Bailey, watercolor, Rochester Hills
- Michael Bollerud, pencil on paper, Garden City
- Jennifer Whaley, graphite drawings, of Rochester Hills
- Larry Zdeb, mixed media collage, Troy
Zdeb was a finalist in 2014.
The finalists were among a field of 109 artists from Oakland, Lapeer, Livingston, Macomb, St. Clair, Shiawassee and Wayne counties who entered the online competition in September in hopes their entries would catch the discerning eye of the public. After 22,000 votes were cast during two weeks – more than twice the number in 2014 – the field was whittled down to 20 artists. A panel of art experts selected the five finalists and ultimately chose the winner.
The prize package for the winner includes five submitted artworks framed by Park West Gallery; a group exhibition at Park West Gallery which runs through Jan. 8, 2016; business counseling and other services from the Oakland County One Stop Shop Business Center; their artwork featured on a poster to promote one of Oakland County’s signature quality of life events; a solo exhibition at Park West Gallery; and a two-month solo exhibition at the Oakland County Galleria in the Executive Office Building in Waterford.
Four runners-up each received a $375 cash prize; framing by Park West Gallery of five artworks included in their submissions; a group exhibition at Park West Gallery; business counseling and other services from the Oakland County One Stop Shop Business Center; and a two-month solo exhibition in the Oakland County Galleria.
The judges were Park West Gallery founder and CEO Albert Scaglione; Elliott W. Broom, vice president of museum operations at the Detroit Institute of Arts; Dominic Pangborn, founder of Pangborn Design Collection and former professor at the College of Creative Studies; artist Don Tocco; and Kristie Everett Zamora, coordinator of arts and culture for Oakland County’s Department of Economic Development & Community Affairs.
Patterson and Scaglione launched the contest in 2012 as a quality of life initiative to identify and support up-and-coming artists. MI Great Artist partners include Oakland County, Park West Gallery, the Economic Growth Alliance, AdvantageOakland.com and Oakland County Prosper®.