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Experimental art exhibit coming to LowellArts

by Patrick Misner

contributing reporter

LowellArts will be hosting the annual Juried Experimental Art Exhibit beginning on Saturday, Sept. 7 and running through Saturday, Oct. 26. The exhibit is held in coordination with the International Society of Experimental Artists, and this will be their 28th juried exhibition. Many artists submitted material for the exhibition, and Joseph Becherer, former Meijer Gardens curator and current director of the Snite Museum of Art at Notre Dame, will be selecting winners competing for over $10,000 in awards.

Maxine Masterfield and Gracie Hegeman founded the ISEA in 1991, and it currently has over 500 members in the USA and the rest of the world. Previous exhibitions have taken place all over including places such as Bethlehem, PA, Sanibel, FL, San Pedro, CA, and many other locations.

Local resident Patti Sevensma is the president of ISEA, and she was instrumental in bringing the exhibit to Lowell this year, with the recent LowellArts relocation and renovation being a motivating factor.

"As a member of LowellArts for many years I was aware of the completion of their wonderful new space for exhibiting art,” Sevensma explained. “I approached them with a proposal for ISEA to have our 28th annual juried exhibition in this new space. The proposal was accepted about two years ago and we will be hanging this exhibition in LowellArts."

Sevensma is an artist herself working with photography and other mediums. It was through her own art that she got involved with ISEA and eventually became the president of the organization.

"I became aware of ISEA in 1992 through a friend who had been my high school art teacher,” said Sevensma. “I joined and attended my first symposium in Forth Worth, TX. That was in 1993. There, I met one of the founders of the organization, Maxine Masterfield. As a gift, I sent her a DVD of the images I had taken during the symposium. In return, she hired me to make a promo DVD for the organization to use when applying to other venues. I continued to attend these events, joined the board of directors as the secretary about 10 years ago, and have been president for the last six years. It is a group of artists that is open to all art forms and artists."

As previously mentioned, Joseph Becherer will be the juror for this year's competition. ISEA hoped that his previous work with Meijer Gardens would encourage more 3D artists to apply for the exhibition. They received nearly 300 entries and Becherer narrowed them down to approximately 100 for the final exhibit. Winners from this group will be announced at an awards reception taking place on Thursday, Sept. 19 from 5 pm until 8 pm.

Becherer described the process of judging for this year's exhibit.

"There were many tough decisions to be made to bring the number of works selected for exhibition into a reasonable range that the exhibition space merited, but I congratulate all those that applied,” Becherer commented. “To those selected as winners, know that your work was inspiring to me and I hope it will be to others as well. To all - artists, organizers, audiences - I thank you for your bravery and courage to engage with the visual arts in new and meaningful ways. My hope is that the work, singularly and collectively, nourishes and inspires."

In coordination with the exhibition, there will also be a symposium for artists, with some events taking place at Crowne Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids and some at LowellArts. Events at the symposium will include painting workshops by various artists, an encaustic demo hosted by Candace Law, a tour of Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, and other events. These symposiums take place each year as part of the juried exhibition and are meant to be educational and enjoyable.

"It is a time of fellowship with like-minded artists from around the USA and abroad,” Sevensma said. “Many of us have been attending each year because of the friendships that have formed, the camaraderie and the chance to connect with new art friends."

While the "experimental art" moniker may be intimidating to some, Sevensma sees focusing on experimental art as encouraging artists to develop their processes and styles more thoroughly.

"The resulting art is stimulating, refreshing, and cutting edge,” Sevensma explained. “Art can be realistic or abstract; it is the approach to making the art and the aesthetic results that count.”

With this in mind, the art is not meant to be intentionally obtuse, and Sevensma hopes the pieces will prove stimulating for the viewers.

"The International Society of Experimental Artists hopes that those who visit our exhibitions will be entertained, engaged, intrigued and excited by the pieces they are viewing,” Sevensma said. “If they are able to continue following ISEA on Facebook, all of these pieces are eventually posted, along with a statement from the artist that is part of the requirement for entry [about] why this piece is experimental. It is a very educational part of what ISEA is all about."

The exhibit will begin on Saturday, Sept. 7, and the awards reception will take place on Thursday, Sept. 19. A full list of events can be found on the LowellArts website at More information on the ISEA in general, as well as the events taking place during September, can be found on their website,

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