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Visual vocabulary

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By Kate VonderPorten

Arizona Daily Wildcat

UA art students submit work to be judged by professionals for 25th annual VisCom show

The temperature may be rising all over campus with the advent of Spring, but for the art department this year, Spring means "cold."

That is because "cold" is the theme for the 25th annual Visual Communications (VisCom) art show, a juried exhibition of students' graphic design, illustration and computer-related, two-dimensional artwork.

Every Spring UA VisCom students submit work to be judged by working design and illustration professionals who then select, from those entries, which pieces will hang in the exhibition.

"This show is different because it is juried by the same people we'll all be working with once we graduate," Gabriel Ruane, a VisCom senior and the student liaison for the show, stated in an e-mail. "We get reinforcement from people who are already successful in our field, and we get a sense for how our skills stack up against the rest of the industry."

Students who participate will not only receive feedback from professionals in the field they hope to one day be a part of, but also information about potential jobs related to visual communication. Students will also have the opportunity to participate in a two-day forum with the four visiting professionals, two of which are UA design graduates.

Eighteen different awards will be given in various categories including digital media, experimental illustration and poster design. Although UA faculty are involved in selecting the judges, decisions made about the work to be exhibited are left entirely up to the judges' opinion.

"The judges have difficult work," Ruane said. "Aside from lecturing on their work, they have to judge winners from hundreds of student submissions. The criteria for judging each piece is left entirely up to them. No faculty input whatsoever. If (the judges) like it, it goes in (the show)."

Students do not know the criteria the judges will use to select work. Moreover, they have no requirements or limits for the work they submit except for the option of entering a piece related to the show's theme, chosen by the faculty.

The pieces relating to the theme, however, will not be judged - although they will be exhibited.

"There is no requirement to submit. As students we have complete creative freedom, and these topics give us a lot of options," Ruane said. "It is an interesting display in the end because everyone goes in such different directions."

The selection of work is highly competitive, said David Christiana, an associate professor of visual communications.

"On a scale of one to 10, I would say it is about a five depending on the judge," he said. "100 to 120 works are selected out of the 450 submitted."

Ruane agreed, saying the VisCom show is popular among art students.

"It's a big deal around here, and lots of students get involved," he said.

For the show's 25-year duration, Christiana said student work has been stronger in certain categories more than others and this year's distinctive feature remains to be seen.

"It seems like in different years certain components of our show shine more than others - sometimes it's the logos, sometimes illustration and sometimes it is the posters," he said.

If one thing is consistent, it is the fast-paced preparation of show, which, due to the time constraints of the judges, is put together the day before the exhibit opens.

"It's one crazy week full of judging, lecturing, glory and defeat," Ruane said.

The 25th annual VisCom show opens today and runs through May 2 at the Lionel Rombach Gallery in the UA Fine Arts complex. An awards ceremony and reception for the show will be held this evening at the gallery from 4-5:30.