Global identity can mean many things to different people. This year at Stratosphere, students made pieces to reflect what global identity meant to them.

Each year since 2014, the School of Art has sponsored Stratosphere. The event features student-made pieces that are displayed in the Kent State Downtown Gallery. Twenty pieces from all of the submissions are chosen by the juror.

This year, artist Michelle Grabner was chosen to be the juror, which meant she was tasked with choosing the 20 pieces that she felt best represented the theme of global identity.

Effie Tsengas, the School of Art’s director of communication and marketing, was excited to have Grabner act as this year’s juror.

“We thought it would be a great opportunity to bring her back and see what Kent State’s School of Art is all about, as well as the various artists across campus,” Tsengas said. “It’ll be a great way to see the talent we have here at Kent State."

The opening reception was held Thursday from 5-7 p.m. Attendees included the students themselves, families and friends of the students, Grabner, professors and faculty from the School of Art and many members of the Kent community. 

Attendees were encouraged to vote on best in show, first and second runners-up, and a people’s choice award. These awards also included cash prizes, which many of the student artists admitted incentivized them to participate in the show.

Stratosphere is an art competition open to all majors. When Kent State students realized there was a cash prize involved, many were quick to submit their pieces. The art ranged from textiles to photos to paintings to ceramics, and everything in between.

Sarah Knox, a senior fashion merchandising major, submitted her piece called “The Chaos of Memory Surrounds Me; The Chaos of Memory Eludes Me” in early February. The piece is made from denim and yarn and acts as an ombre wall hanging.

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“The Chaos of Memory Surrounds Me; The Chaos of Memory Eludes Me” by Sarah Knox. Taken Thursday, April 18, 2019.

Nicholas Davis, a music education major with an associate’s degree in art, submitted his sonified image titled “On The Negative Space of Sound.”

The piece looks obscure and black and white, but Davis said it is more about the art and not the artist. He said the diversity in his field is what plays into this year’s theme.

“I find my field and medium to be accepting of any of those who have the aptitude to manipulate sound to a creative art form,” Davis said.

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“On The Negative Space of Sound” by Nicholas Davis. Taken Thursday, April 18, 2019.

Davis does not label himself within his field, but said he is often perceived as some “sort of photographer”.

Another “sort of photographer,” Taylor Ginwright, submitted her piece "Girl-Woman." The piece features a woman in dark, red light. There are shadows throughout the image but the woman seems to be struggling in her mind.

Featured on a screen on the ground in the downtown gallery is senior studio art major Logan Bruni’s submission. 

This submission features a pink body-like glob walking toward a Twitter timeline in the background. During the reception, this piece received a lot of eyes and attention because it was so different from the rest.

Taking a more personal approach to the theme, senior art education major Christina Timmons submitted her piece, “Welcome to My Hood.” Timmons said the piece was done a year prior as part of a collage assignment for a class.

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“Welcome to My Hood” by Christina Timmons. Taken Thursday, April 18, 2019.

The piece features a 25 mph speed limit sign, a sign that indicates a crime zone and a neighborhood in the background.

“When my piece was selected I felt great because this is a piece I really love,” Timmons said.

Welcome to My Hood showcases Timmons’ home back in Cleveland. She said she has a bond with the city and with the piece she made about her home.

“This piece is like an entrance into my life,” she said. “It is about the places I see and love.”

Throughout the gallery, pieces change in mediums and colors. Diana Harper, a junior studio art major, made a ceramic cast of a woman’s bust whose waist is being pinched in. The bust sits on top of a bubble gum pink colored silicone mold.

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Diana Harper's ceramic piece for the Stratosphere exhibit. Taken Thursday, April 18, 2019.

The piece touches on a global issue of unrealistic body expectations forced on women and girls. Junior political science major and Stratosphere attendee Paige Scott said she thought the piece shows frustration and a desire to fit in, literally.

“Christmas Rose,” a piece submitted by senior studio art major Alyse Ambriel Hanna, won the best in show award. Winning this sent her home with a $1,000 cash prize.

In addition to the few cash prizes given to the winning artists, the students also received some art exposure. Each finalist said they were happy to have been selected as one of the final 20.

“I am very proud of my peers and their accomplishments,” Davis said.

The gallery will remain open and feature the 20 pieces until the last day of classes, May 3.

Brittany Wilson covers arts and architecture. Contact her at bwilso53@kent.edu

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