The Everson Museum of Art highlights the diverse work of CNY Artist Initiative recipients

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In 2005, Syracuse native Kenny Harris made it his goal to one day have his work displayed at the Everson Museum of Art. Little did he know that the CNY Artist Initiative would help him achieve this goal much sooner than he expected.

“My mother said, ‘I remember you coming here to the church choir when you were nine years old to sing Christmas carol, and here you are doing an exhibition in one of their main galleries,'” he said.

On Sunday, the Everson Art Museum unveiled the artists selected for the CNY Artist Initiative, allowing artists to express the thoughts behind their exhibits. The initiative is a competition program that highlights six different artists each year who use a range of modes and mediums, and provides a space for CNY artists to display their artwork locally.

This year, the six featured artists were Harris, Laura Reeder, Abishai Puentes, Achala Wali, Helene Starr and Dan Shanahan. Featured artists have had shows at the Everson since January of this year, including Shanahan’s exhibit, Scenes of Syracuse, which opened last month.

Out of 60 applicants, the six artists were chosen for their diverse backgrounds, mediums and motivations.

The differences between the artists were also illustrated in the different ways they chose to present and discuss their work. Shanahan showcased this diversity as the only watercolor artist with a demonstration of his painting process with a typical Syracuse landscape. Everson set up a desk and camera, allowing the audience to see each stroke as he painted Syracuse buildings and recounted his process and the reasoning behind his choices.

Puentes demonstrated his multimodal expertise by showing the audience a video showing his artwork alongside his instrumental music. He assured the audience that the absence of words or text in his work was intentional.

“Words can be used as a weapon to hurt people,” Puentes said. “Sometimes it can be medicine, but in many cases it’s a weapon, so I don’t want to say too much.” I want to show you my art.”

Most artists attended the event, with the exception of Helen Starr and Laura Reeder, who both shared videos in lieu of their presence. Starr’s exhibit highlights the intersection of ceramics and metals and how she uses them to create new sculpture, while Reeder’s exhibit, “Now More Than Ever,” focuses on images and how she travels through the world and captures these moments with the camera you are

Wally studied in Paris and London before settling in Trumansburg, New York, where her family immigrated from India when she was five years old.

Wally’s exhibition was heavily influenced by her parents — she spent a lot of time painting her mother’s “unruly” hair and her father’s ears, which resembled the ears of sculptures of Indian deities, she said. Both passed away in the past year, just six months apart, but Wally’s sketches of her parents still headline her exhibit.

The initiative highlights both art and community perspectives, said Adam Carlin, SU’s director of learning and engagement. Carlin, who started the position nine months ago, feels positive about the future of the initiative and the heights it will reach.

“Six artists from one year,” Carlin said. “Think about it — over 10 years, that’s 60 artists doing these solo shows at the museum.”

The initiative also benefits students, families and children who can view and learn from these exhibits, Harris said. The opportunity also put Harris in touch with other Syracuse artists, which influenced his work as a professor.

“Syracuse artists are doing these specific things and these emerging artists are interested in the same things,” Harris said. “Let’s bring them together so we can all have the same conversation.”

Carlin hopes the initiative will continue to grow and attract more artists and community members to the Syracuse art scene.

“We’re in our second year — I expect this to go on for a long time,” Carlin said. “It’s just a great platform to achieve that goal of supporting local artists.”

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