Biennial? What's the big deal?

originally published March 6, 2018

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The Salina Biennial Exhibition: Contemporary Art from the Mountain Plains Region officially opened on Feb. 21, 2018 and will run through May 20, 2018. 

So why is the Salina Biennial a big deal, and why should you care?

 Shin-hee Chin Nothingness (2016) Cotton, mono filament, cotton fabric, dyed and stitched, 84x48x48in, courtesy of artist

Shin-hee Chin
Nothingness (2016)
Cotton, mono filament, cotton fabric, dyed and stitched, 84x48x48in, courtesy of artist

1) 72 works, 42 artists from 10 states - only in Salina, KS.
This exhibition is truly a one-of-a-kind experience. You will never see this collection of work assembled in one location ever again. Jodi Throckmorton, who juried the show, combed through nearly 500 works submitted for consideration and narrowed it down to these 72. 

2) Contemporary art is relevant today, and the artists willingly share points of view on issues they care about.
The Mountain Plains region is what the rest of the country considers "fly over states." As such, is anyone listening to what is happening in the minds and hearts of this middle 1/3 of our country? If the last presidential election is an indicator, we should have learned how important it is to not discount what is happening in the fly over zone. The artists participating in the Biennial are lending their talents to a variety of challenging conversations; conversations that we shouldn't ignore. This powerful exhibition proves the middle 1/3 isn't willing to hide quietly in rural America. 

3) Biennials happen all over the world, and now in Kansas. 
These events shine a spotlight on artwork that is "now." Works are created within a two year time frame of the exhibition, so there is very little work that has been seen by wide audiences. The concepts are fresh, the works are current, and the conversations are relevant to what is happening in the world today. You won't find another event like it in Kansas, we can be proud that Salina is on the cutting edge of bringing this format to our area. 

Another benefit of the two year format is that you can see the cultural shifts and changing global conversations from event to event. What is "now" today, is not what will be "now" in two years. You also have opportunity to watch artists develop if they are fortunate enough to be selected to multiple events over the course of decades.

 Stephanie Lanter Always On (2017) Porcelain, glaze, thread, and wire, 11 x 12 x 5 in., courtesy of artist

Stephanie Lanter
Always On (2017)
Porcelain, glaze, thread, and wire, 11 x 12 x 5 in., courtesy of artist

4) Museums (like Salina Art Center) are economic contributors to our state. 
The total financial impact that museums have on the economy in Kansas is $311 million. (Source: Oxford Economics, IMPLAN, 2017) An event like the Salina Biennial can impact the local community in multiple ways.  It can increase tourism dollars; mean greater opportunity for local artists to engage with visiting artists, and enhance Salina’s standing as a significant platform for contemporary visual art.

5) When you attend, you will be challenged. 
Contemporary art provokes emotion and challenges intellect in all sorts of ways. When you engage with contemporary art you can be provoked, confused, inspired, happy, sad, angry, and uneasy. But in that roller coaster of emotions between "love it" and "hate it," you will get to exchange thoughts with people who are also on the wild ride. It's in those exchanges that the seeds of change are sown. Art is a wonderful way to approach challenging subjects with an open mind and lively curiosity.

Take time to visit and support the Salina Biennial by coming in to the Art Center before May 20, 2018. You can learn more about great Biennial Artist programming opportunities here.