"Self-Reflection" by Payton Harmon of Lee University is the first-place winner of the "Regional College Student Art Show," now on view at The Arts Center in Athens, Tenn. (Contributed Photo)
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Second place: "The Ring Finger" by Mandalyn Watters of Tennessee Wesleyan University. (Contributed Photo)

If you go

The Arts Center, 320 N. White St. in Athens, Tennessee, will host the “Regional College Student Art Show” through April 6 and the “High School Art Show” April 9-May 18, with an opening reception at 5:30 p.m. Friday, April 13. Gallery hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Admission is free. For more information, visit or call 423-745-8781.

To submit work

› Submissions for the “High School Art Show” will be accepted through Monday, April 2.

› The show is open to students in Bradley, McMinn, Meigs, Polk, Monroe and Rhea counties.

› Teachers may find submission instructions at They may submit up to 10 pieces per class.

› Students who are not enrolled in art class, or who are home-schooled, may submit work individually. They are asked to call or stop by for entry information.

› All media are accepted.

› There is no entry fee.

For four months in late winter and spring, the Athens Area Council for the Arts turns a spotlight on emerging artists with back-to-back shows by college and high school students.

Both show are juried, though the process differs by the age of the artists. For the "Regional College Student Art Show," a Visual Arts Committee from the AACA considers submitted works from any undergraduate or graduate student in East Tennessee.

All media and subject matter are acceptable, though entrants are reminded that the exhibit is held at a community arts center that is open to all ages at all times.

For the "High School Art Show," the front-line jurors are teachers, who are asked to select the top pieces in their class, up to 10. Home-schoolers and students not enrolled in art class may submit work individually.

"We want there to be a selection process, but I respect our area art teachers, and think they are the best arbiters of their students' work," says Jennifer Nunley, program manager and curator for the council. "We also want to make this competition available to a wider area, however, so limiting the number of pieces submitted per class is a good way to meet both of those conditions."

Submissions are still being accepted for the high school show, which will open April 9, three days after the college show ends. Entries are due by April 2. The show is open to students in Bradley, McMinn, Meigs, Polk and Rhea counties.

Both shows award first-, second- and third-place prizes. The number of submissions varies from year to year, but "a good average," according to Nunley, "would be about 30 for each show."

Nunley says the first exhibit she curated for the AACA was the "Regional College Student Art Show" in 2014.

"With lots of guidance from Tennessee Wesleyan University professor Jerry Hagaman, I learned the art of presenting art — and I loved it. It was an especially steep learning curve because college students are well-known for pushing the envelope when it comes to both content and installation."

Nunley says she's hung "three-dimensional paintings, vines from ceiling tiles and burnt slips of paper. I've installed a 128-foot strip of yellow tape, hand-printed to intentionally look like it belonged at a crime scene."

She acknowledges that some of the work "borders on the edge of what some would consider art," but she stays mindful of the general definition of art as a vehicle for the artist's self-expression.

"Art itself is generally regarded as a way for individuals to express concepts that are difficult to do with words," she says. "After all, if words would suffice, why have art in the first place?"