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List Prize Winners Consider Art at MIT

By Ann Ames
Arts Editor

Elizabeth B. Arentzen '94, Russell F. Kahan '94, and Julia C. Ogrydziak '96 were announced as winners of the Vera List Prize Competition last week. The focus of the contest was the role of contemporary art at MIT, according to the competition guidelines.

Arentzen received a first-place award of $300, Ogrydziak won second place and $250, and Kahan took the third-place prize of $50, said Assistant Curator of the List Visual Arts Center Ronald P. Platt. Arentzen and Kahan are both architecture students, and Ogrydziak is a physics major.

This year there were six entries in the contest, including the three winners, and this was a better response than last year, Platt said.

"A lot of students, when they think of non-study activity ... want something less challenging than their coursework," and this might explain the small number of contest entries, Platt said. "We have a challenging collection here. There's a lot of enjoyment in art, but there's also some learning involved."

Arentzen said she wrote her essay, "Innovation and Instruction: Contemporary Visual Art at MIT," specifically for the contest. The topic was "something I had been thinking about for a while," she said.

Arentzen said she was further inspired by a line in the contest guidelines which reads: "The List Visual Arts Center is committed to mirroring MIT's position at the frontiers of science and technology by presenting the most contemporary art-making in all media."

"The alliance [between art and science at MIT] didn't seem so clear to me," Arentzen said. In her essay, she explored that issue as well as the response of MIT students to the art around them. She said she found that MIT students are frequently afraid to be interested in subjects of which they have no prior knowledge. "I think this problem needs to be addressed," she said.

Ogrydziak did not know about the contest until the week before the deadline, she said. She had created a sculpture, "Bench," last year for an assignment in Foundations in the Visual Arts (4.301). The premise of the assignment was to make a connection between a particular work and the real world, and this seemed to fit the List contest's theme, she said.

"I decided to do [the 4.301 assignment] on the [Joan] Miro lithograph I got from the [List Center's] Student Art Loan," Ogrydziak said. "Miro tries to create an environment that is completely unique," she said. " `The Bench' tries to set up a dialogue between the physical space we inhabit and the alternate space Miro envisioned."

Kahan wrote his essay as a response to an Ansel Adams photograph he saw two years ago at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The photograph was part of a traveling retrospective of the artist's work. "Image Bridge: Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941" was written at that time as a naturalistic essay for Naturalist Writing (21W.790), Kahan said.

The Vera List Prize Competition was "inaugurated to encourage students to look at and respond to contemporary art," according to the contest guidelines. Its originator, Vera List, "called a couple years ago to suggest this," Platt said. List has contributed generously to the visual arts at MIT, Platt said.