Meet the 2016 Mid-South Scholastic Art Awards judges

As an affiliate of the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers, the Mid-South Scholastic Art Awards honors exemplary art by students in 7th through 12th grades, recognizing their outstanding achievements in a competitive annual exhibition and providing cash prizes and scholarship opportunities. The Mid-South Scholastic Art Awards is generously sponsored by the Brooks Museum League, which provides both financial support and countless volunteer hours.

Six judges, over a course of several days, evaluated more than 2,000 entries from students across the Mid-South. These entries in a variety of categories, including painting, drawing, mixed media, photography, sculpture, graphic design, film, fashion, as well as senior art portfolios, are judged digitally.

Gold key, or first place, winners are part an exhibition at the Brooks Museum and their artwork will be sent to New York City for national judging. Click here to read more about the exhibition and the winning artworks.

Meet the 2016 Mid-South Scholastic Art Awards judges:

Elizabeth Brown is an Assistant Professor at Memphis College of Art where she teaches foundations and sculpture courses. Her artwork includes sculptural installations that explore the link between nature and culture, often with an interactive or performative element.

Brittney Bullock works as Partnerships and Community Engagement Manager for Crosstown Arts and Crosstown Concourse. She is also a freelance artist who owns and designs for Don’t Blink.

Laurel Sucsy has taught drawing and painting at Rhodes College and currently advises graduate students at Memphis College of Art. She has been awarded multiple residencies for her nationally exhibited artwork.

Kenneth Wayne Alexander, II is a local hip-hop producer and artist who specializes in surreal painting and digital collages. This Overton High School alum has created his own artistic style based in surrealism and incorporating video art. His Surreal Kingdoms exhibition was on view at the Brooks from June to November 2015.

Michael Roy a.k.a Birdcap is an American born street artist and illustrator. His murals can be seen across the world in places as far reaching as Seoul and New York City. One of his most recent projects, Buggin & Shruggin: A Glitched History of Gaming Culture, is on view at the Brooks through March 6, 2016.

Siphne A. Sylve is Director of Public Art at UrbanArt Commission. She spends her spare moments as a local DJ and painter.

Each judge was given the opportunity to answer several questions, including what advice they would give to aspiring artists.

Elizabeth Brown: Stay true to yourself. While it can be exciting to see what other artists are working on or what trends are going on in art, you have a unique vision to share.

Brittney Bullock: Try new things and always be willing to learn more. Don’t just stick to one artistic practice, medium, or idea. Sometimes the very thing you need, is found while searching for more.

Laurel Sucsy: The first bit of advice I would give to a young artist is to do what you love. If this happens to be art, follow it. Find the time for making art and your connection to creating will grow.

Kenneth Wayne Alexander, II: The advice I can give to artists in this day and age is to create your own platform. Make art that's a reflection of your uniqueness and intelligence. And if you are thinking of a career in art, trust me, it is very possible. The road you have to travel is different, but staying consistent and learning the business side will guide you along the way.

Michael Roy a.k.a Birdcap: Work hard. Being an artist is a dream job for a lot of people, so take it very seriously. There is a lot of people vying for that niche. Being an artist takes a community of support and you’ll owe it to everyone who helps you accomplish your goals that you take it as seriously as possible. Never compromise your passion or your work ethic. Being a professional artist will take more time than a vast majority of other professions. Not having weekends off won’t matter if you truly love working, so make sure you love what you are doing or learn to love it.

Siphne A. Sylve: I advise young artists to develop and keep consistent work habits and to be adventurous in seeking new opportunities for growth. I also encourage young artists to visualize their goals and be committed to improving their professional practice. Lastly, I also advise young artists to take be daring when perusing their passion.

What project are you currently working on?

Elizabeth Brown: I just completed my heart piece for the Works of Heart Auction (sponsored by the Child Advocacy Center) coming up in February. My piece is top secret until the show, but I'll just say it incorporates my love of working with multiple media (textiles and wood, in this case). I'm also working on a performance for the spring involving a boat, my continuing interest in commemorating the everyday, and a whole lot of duct tape.

Brittney Bullock: I’m preparing for a group exhibiton in early April. It’s a fairly new project idea and involves me stepping out of my comfort zone. I’m also exploring new materials in my studio to translate my conceptual ideas.

Laurel Sucsy: I am an oil painter working primarily with abstract forms and color. I am completing a suite of paintings that will be exhibited at John Davis Gallery in Hudson, NY. Images of my paintings can be viewed at

Kenneth Wayne Alexander, II: I am currently working on a custom digital frame for my NOVI Art style. I want my work to be hung as a standard piece in galleries and homes with ease. Also, I am planning two art shows in Miami this year with my new style so I can increase my expansion in the USA.

Michael Roy a.k.a Birdcap: In general winter is when I get organized for the upcoming year. I want to fit as much into my year as possible so I like to map out as much as I can! I’m working on a few projects right now though, including a mural here in Memphis.

Siphne A. Sylve: I am currently working several projects, although the most recent is a solo exhibition titled Session 88. It features a collection of illustrations inspired by memories, patterns, and southern culture. The show opens at Midtown Crossing Grill February 12th at 7 pm.

What impact do you see these Art Awards having on young artists?

Brittney Bullock: Empowerment. The Art Awards will inspire and empower students to continue the visual arts path and will hopefully cultivate future arts professionals.

Laurel Sucsy: These Art Awards have a significant impact because young artists are given recognition for their creative work at a pivotal time in their development. Encouraging a young artist to continue exploring their creative ideas is no small gesture. In today's educational environment many skills are measured and valued. It is imperative that we underscore the value of creativity and that we nurture the next generation of creative thinkers. The Scholastic Art Awards accomplishes this by selecting the most talented individuals and providing them with the opportunity to display the images they have designed, the skills gathered and importantly, the problems they have solved in the process of making their art. The work they show here points to the beginning of many exciting futures.

Kenneth Wayne Alexander, II: I think its a two-way street between a supreme accomplishment and the feeling of not being enough. As artists, we are sensitive about the work we put out and want the world to try to understand our view point. I want the artist to know that whether you made the rankings or not, do not give up in your passion. I was one who wasn't picked for the scholastic rankings, but now my art is shown around the world.

Siphne A. Sylve: The Art Awards is a great way to for young artists to begin thinking of their work in a professional setting. It provides exposure to their artistic peers and an opportunity to have their work published.

What impresses you most about the artwork being entered by Mid-South students?

Elizabeth Brown: This was my first time to jury the Scholastic Art Awards, although I was very familiar with its reputation. I was most impressed by the level of work coming from Mid-South students at all levels. It was exciting to see the level of skill and passion from these young artists.

Brittney Bullock: The level of creativity in each piece was amazing. One could definitely tell the determination and dedication put towards making the work.

Kenneth Wayne Alexander, II: The two things that caught my attention was there attention to detail and the originality behind it. They far passed the level of skill i was in during that time. They have a great understanding of form and how to execute whats needed to convey their skill quite well. It is good to see that the artistic passion is still alive within the youth.

Siphne A. Sylve: I was most impressed with the artwork’s quality and diversity. There were a number of pieces and categories where students were executing in ways I didn’t consider at their age. For example I really enjoyed several pieces in the mix media and sculpture category. It seems there were a number of students experimenting with form and texture in very beautiful ways.

Did you participate in the Scholastic Art Awards? If so, what category did you enter?

Michael Roy a.k.a Birdcap: I did enter the Scholastic Art Awards when I was younger! I got a silver I think? I went to the awards showing which was being held at a museum in Jackson, Mississippi and I was absolutely intimidated by the other student artwork. I felt like I’d never be as good as the other kids! If a student doesn’t get an award, I’d tell them that it’s not important. Succeeding at art is a marathon, not a race.

Did you have a teacher that inspired you? Tell us about them.

Elizabeth Brown: I want to send a shout out to my favorite art teacher, Ms. Manno. I had her for art for Grades 5-12 and she did an amazing job of inspiring us about art and art history while teaching us all kinds of challenging and fun techniques while working with few resources.

Laurel Sucsy: I had several teachers that inspired and encouraged me throughout my education both inside and outside of art making. One teacher in particular was Tim Engelland, an artist/ educator I had the chance to work with while in high school. Mr. Engelland was very connected to the lives of his students and truly excited by the work we created. He established a fun and respectful environment where we could relax and focus on our independent projects. I remember the tranquility of dusty art studios in great contrast to the rest of my course work. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to experience his artistic guidance at that time.

Michael Roy a.k.a Birdcap: Rosalind Wilcox and Anne O’ Hara were my high school art teachers. They were absolutely wonderful, not only at helping me improve my work, but inspiring confidence in myself and my abilities. They’re major reasons as to why I braved it out to become an artist.

Posted by Andria Lisle at 1:51 PM
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