For an organization to remain relevant, let alone to remain in existence, younger people must become participants to replenish the membership and to maintain that the group keeps up with the times.
When the Lexington Art League started collecting data about their constituency, which was actualized from monies made available from the Kentucky Arts Council with the START Collecting Evidence Grant, they wanted to find out why, and in what capacity, artists and non-artists were involved with the art league.
While a thriving non-profit entity, one of the most glaring findings members of the art league noticed was the lack of participation, for whatever reasons, from younger voices in the art community, creative minds on the cutting edge of contemporary art. Involvement from established and mid-career artists was robust, but while they were seeing young members join the art league, they weren't catching the interest of younger artists.
"All of those discussions kept coming back to the fact that we didn't have any way that we were currently working at building connections with the new generation of artists,"said Kate Sprengnether, the visual art specialist for the Lexington Art League.
Sort of like the antithesis to last summer's Uncommon Wealth, an exhibition of recognized Kentucky artists who had received prestigious visual art fellowships from the KAC, the Lexington Art League's newest exhibit, generatioNext, takes aim at identifying and showcasing the state's emerging artists.
Sprengnether, who served as a curator for the exhibit along with Frank Close and Benjamin Withers, contacted members of the art world across the state - academics, art professionals, gallery directors - and asked them to nominate artists who they felt exemplified the next generation of rising artists, who in turn were asked to submit portfolios. The 19 artists chosen to exhibit their work represent a sundry display of traditional to very contemporary forms of art - from paintings to video installations.
"The artwork is all over the board. It's a very diverse exhibit in terms of the materials,"Sprengnether said.
Aside from the obvious difference of the age of the exhibitors, the diversity of the artwork is also something that separates generatioNext from other exhibits at the art league, which are usually theme based (such as The Nude International, where all works are dedicated, in some way, to the human form) or material oriented (like HotGlass in the Bluegrass, an exhibit entirely composed of glass works).
An exhibit of this nature has a two-pronged benefit for the artists and the organization (perhaps three-pronged, if you consider the widening of the stage of artwork available to the public). In reaching out to a younger generation, the Lexington Art League is solidifying its position as a steward of relevant art in the community.
"If we don't have 20- and 30-year-olds coming to the art league, where are we going to be 10 years from now,"Sprengnether asked. "We need that for the continual growth of the organization and just to remain relevant to the community.
But the exhibit also helps younger artists learn how to debunk the mysterious process of getting their work in a gallery and might give them a little confidence as their work hangs in a revered space where it normally wouldn't be found.
"All the artists have just been very excited about being in the show