Homage to the highest office

The Art of Hope: A Regional Juried Exhibition Commemorating the First African American U.S. President, Barack Obama

Through Jan. 17 

at Crealdé School of Art 

600 St. Andrews Blvd., Winter Park


Also at Hannibal ;Square Heritage Center

642 W. New England Ave., Winter Park



It was a decidely pro-Obama crowd that mingled in the Jenkins Gallery at the Crealdé School of Art on Oct. 8 for the opening of The Art of Hope: Commemorating the first African American U.S. President, Barack Obama. When the call for entries went out May 12 for the juried show, there was already a groundswell of discontent about the president's policies; criticisms haven't quieted since then, but anti-Obama sentiment was neither voiced nor on view at this unusual exhibition addressing the impact and importance of the election of the first black president of the United States. 

Instead, the reception, curator's talk and awards ceremony, attended by politicians – including a representative from U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson's office – praised Crealdé executive director Peter Schreyer with short speeches and letters read in absentia. Juror Bobby Scroggins then announced the best-in-show awards. Most of the 32 artists and winning pieces were at the Jenkins Gallery; the others were at Crealdé's second campus and the show's supplementary venue, the Hannibal Square Heritage Center in west Winter Park.

The first-place award went to a kinetic sculpture by Billie Grace Lynn of Miami. The floor-to-ceiling Barack Obama Kite bearing the president's likeness dominated the gallery. Next to it, a computer playing a video of the kite in flight proved that the heavy piece was actually functional.  

The members of the Heritage Center Quilters Guild took second place for their entry, a quilt titled For Such a Time as This; an image of Obama at the quilt's center is flanked by interpretive maps of Africa and the United States. Third place went to Minerva Diaz of New York, who drew a detailed re-creation of a postcard titled Election Night; the piece, which features a smiling, waving Obama and a Chicago postmark dated Nov. 4, 2008, reminds us that soon, the landmark election that put Obama in office will be looked upon with nostalgia.

It wasn't just the award-winners that caught the eye, however. There were evocative abstract paintings, such as Sidestepper by Patricia Zalisko with a black figurative mass in energetic motion, and pleasant portraits, including Making History by Stan Surman with a ghostly image of Martin Luther King Jr. behind a vibrant Obama. 

An image of determination that burned in my brain was contributed by Crealdé intern Andrew Grant: Progression shows a side view of Obama walking with purposeful stride behind a teen girl, her backpack hanging slack against her body and her head also held high and focused on something ahead. Grant says the duo represents the present leaders guiding the way for future generations, despite the trials and tribulations on the horizon.

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