Tikkanen Prizes: Ashtabula Art Center Awards $40,000

Before the Summer of 2022, the Ashtabula Art Center was probably far from the minds of most Cleveland artists—and maybe even most artists of Northeast Ohio. But the recent announcement of winners of the inaugural Paul and Norma Tikkanen Prizes for painting may change that. There are two top prizes, $12,000 each—one for abstraction, and another for realism. There are also $5,000 prizes in each category for second place. And six prizes of $1,000 each were awarded to honorable mentions. That’s a total of $40,000 in prize money, and ten painters who each took away a significant amount of cash.

Ashtabula Art Center is a community art center with a range of programs: a theater program, including its own productions of family friendly shows like Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None and Disney’s The Little Mermaid, as well as theater classes. There is a music program offering lessons and concerts, and likewise a dance program with classes and a production of the Nutcracker. And it has a visual art program, with a gallery and shows.

The gallery program and the center in general got an enormous boost when the late Paul Tikkanen endowed the prize that bears his name and that of his beloved late wife. He left specific instructions to offer the painting prize.

Judges in 2022 were Jose Carlos Diaz, chief curator at the Andy Warhol Museum; Artist Naomi Fisher, who divides her time between New York and Miami; and Kim Beck, artist and professor at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh.

A map showing where the ten prize winners live might work as a rough analogue of the raw number of active painters in the region served by the prize—From Northwestern Pennsylvania west to Lorain County, Ohio, and as far south as Medina and Summit Counties. Several of them are well-known and active on the contemporary art scene in Cleveland, and several of the names will probably be completely new to local patrons. Three hail from Cleveland Heights, and one each from Cleveland, Ravenna, Solon, Geneva, Akron, Elyria, and Erie, Pennsylvania. There were a total of 250 entrants. Fifty were chosen for the show.

The Paul and Norma Tikkanen Prize is endowed in perpetuity. Nancy Brotz, director of the visual arts program at Ashtabula Art Center, says it will be offered annually.

The Winners

Realism, First Place: Ewuresi Archer, MADAM, Acrylic & Chalk Pastel on Canvas, 40×48 inches

Realism, First Place: Ewuresi Archer
Ewuresi Archer is an artist from Accra, Ghana who graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Art in 2022 with a BFA in Painting and an emphasis in Printmaking. Her work has been shown in multiple group exhibitions such as Day Glo Show at Waterloo Arts in Cleveland, OH, Waking Dream at River House Arts in Toledo, OH, Snickers That Turn to Livable Joy at the Cleveland Institute of Art in Cleveland, OH, and I Am My Best Work, at The Painting Center in New York, NY. She lives in Cleveland Heights.

Abstraction, First Place: Susan Squires, reflection, Encaustic/Oil Stick on Canvas, 30×30 inches

Abstraction, First Place: Susan Squires

Susan Squires is known internationally for her meditative geometric abstractions. She received an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award in 2017 and an OAC sponsored, five-week residency in Dresden, Germany. She is represented by the Bonfoey Gallery in Cleveland. Her solo show in the Galleries at CSU was reviewed in CAN Journal. Born and currently residing in Cleveland, she attended Miami University, and received her BFA in painting from The Cleveland Institute of Art in 1983. Since 2002, Squires has been affiliated with Arte e Pensieri Gallery in Rome. She lives in Cleveland Heights.

Second Place, Realism, Elisa Albrecht, Spark, Sumi Ink and Acrylic Ink on Canvas, 40×40 inches

Second Place, Realism: Elisa Albrecht
Born in Cleveland in 1991, Elisa Albrecht studied Fine art with a focus on drawing and painting at Kent State University, graduating in 2016 with a Bachelor’s degree in fine art. She has since shown her work in several galleries. She lives in Cleveland.

Second Place, Abstraction: Phillip Buntin, Narow Bands Dividing Us, Falling Away, oil on resin-coated muslin, 44 X 44 inches

Second Place, Abstraction, Phillip Buntin

Phillip Buntin is an Associate Professor at Kent State University Trumbull, in Warren, Ohio. His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, in solo and group exhibitions at Poem {88} in Atlanta, Robert Henry Contemporary in New York City, and the International Cultural Center in Krakow, Poland. An examination of his work in relation to phenomenology and his artistic goals by the philosopher Kirsten Jacobson was published in Phenomenology and Arts in 2017. He lives in Ravenna.

Honorable Mention, Judy Takacs, Trust Women, Oil on Canvas, 48 X 30 inches.

Honorable Mention: Judy Takacs

Judy Takacs is familiar to CAN audiences as one of the most active painters in the region. Her long-running Chicks with Balls series has been exhibited in solo shows including at BAYarts, and has traveled in Ohio and Pennsylvania. She has also exhibited at the Butler Institute of American Art, ArtNEO, moCa Cleveland, the Zanesville Museum of Art, Evansville Museum, Haggin Museum, Artists Archives of the Western Reserve, Salmagundi, and more. She’s won two individual excellence awards from the Ohio Arts Council. She lives in Solon.

Honorable Mention, David Leas, Untitled, acrylic and graphite on homasote with circular saw excavations, 29 X 39 inches

Honorable Mention: David Leas
Born in Akron, David Leas studied under Ron Bayusic at the Columbus College of Art and Design. He describes his work as “Excavations with construction tools followed by traditional painting practices.” He lives in Geneva.

Honorable Mention, Alison Stinely, Conglomerate V, Oil on Panel, PLA, Gold Leaf, Hydrographics, 48 X 28 inches.

Honorable Mention: Alison Stinely

Oil on Panel, PLA,Gold Leaf, Hydrographics


Photography by Artist

Alison Stinely began artistic studies at the Clevealnd Institute of Art, earned a BFA in painting from Edinboro University, and an MFA from the Henry Radford Hope School Of Fine Arts at Indiana University.
She’s had solo shows at Tidewater Community College in Portsmouth, Virginia, at Ghost Gallery in New York, at Linda Matney Gallery in Williamsburg Virginia, and at the Erie Art Museum in Erie, Pennsylvania. She’s the founder of the Foundation Art Academy in Erie, where she currently lives.

Honorable Mention, Leigh Brooklyn, We Have Come To Save You, oil on canvas, 16 X 16 inches

Honorable Mention: Leigh Brooklyn
Leigh Brooklyn earned a degree in biomedical illustration from the Cleveland Institute of Art. She has won multiple awards for illustration and figurative work, including the American Illustration Award. She recently won the CAN Triennial Mansfield Art Center Exhibition Prize. She has shown her work around the US, including at the LA Art Show and the Makeshift Museum in Los Angeles, the U.S. Capitol Building and Corcoran Gallery in Washington D.C., The Alliance and Lichtundfire Galleries in New York, and the Diane von Furstenberg Studio. She is currently represented by D. Colabella Fine Art Gallery in Connecticut, Art Unified in Los Angeles and District Gallery in Cleveland, OH. She lives in Elyria.

Honorable Mention: Rebecca Kaler, The Lake Series #2, Acrylic, 48 X 36 inches

Honorable Mention: Rebecca Kaler
Rebecca Kaler was recently accepted into the Artists Archives of the Western Reserve, which presents her inaugural exhibition there Nov 17 – Jan 14, 2023. Kaler was born in Mansfield, she has traveled extensively in South America, Southern Africa, Siberia, Europe, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Canada. She served as a volunteer in the Peace Corps in Bolivia. For nearly twenty years, she was curator of the Pearl Conard Art Gallery at The Ohio State University in Mansfield, OH. She lives in Cleveland Heights.

Honorable Mention: Matthew Kolodziej, Vessel, Acrylic on Canvas, 38 X 31 inches

Honorable Mention: Matthew Kolodziej
Matthew Kolodziej earned a BA in economics from the University of Chicago, and an MFA in painting from Rhode Island School of Design. His work is informed by hs background working on archaeological sites. He has shown around the US and abroad, with recent solo shows at Carl Solway Gallery in Cincinnati, and The Painting Center in New York City. For years he exhibited at William Busta Gallery. His work has been in group exhibitions at the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Rockford Art Museum, the Akron Art Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland. He lives in Akron.

The opinions expressed on CAN Blog are those of the individual writers. Art is somewhat subjective. Well, somewhat. But yes, everybody's a critic.

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