Seniors headed for artistic careers win first Grooms Art Award

Hannah Buchanan ’22 and Abigail Downs ’22 won the inaugural Thomas B. Grooms Art Award, given to students who have “demonstrated creative vision and ideas, and the technical ability and skill to implement those ideas, and who have demonstrated a commitment to a career in the arts.

Grooms ’66, the retired director of design excellence and the arts at the United States General Services Administration, endowed the award, which is open to junior and senior art studio majors. Applicants submit a portfolio of their work. (Left photo: Untitled terracotta sculpture by Abigail Downs.)

Grooms “set it up very smartly,” said Meredith Brickell, associate professor and chair of art and art history. “The selection committee is made up of studio art teachers and an external examiner. This ensures that the work of our students, and DePauw more generally, is seen by nationally recognized artists each year.

This year’s external juror was Josephine Halvorson, a painter, sculptor and printmaker and professor of art and graduate chair in painting at Boston University. She has received numerous scholarships, including one in 2021 from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

Halvorson said Buchanan, a studio art major and art history and geology minor from Rockville, Indiana, “infuses the real world with imagination. Although her colors aren’t naturalistic, they belie the gaze and capture the atmosphere of deep space or the emotional tenor of a room. I was particularly struck by Hannah’s fearlessness in tackling any subject, near or far, no matter how complex. visually, his ambition and sensitivity came through in equal measure.

Halvorson said the multidisciplinary artwork from Downs, a major art studio in Bardstown, Kentucky, “includes painting, ceramics, and photography. Each piece exhibits a curiosity for both its medium and its subject matter. Indeed, it is the variety of her approaches that allows a spirit of discovery to shine through.There is also a touch of humor in her work.Abby shows a great aptitude for artistic experimentation.

Grooms and her husband, Rodger Streitmatter, visited the department’s awards ceremony on Monday and toured the Visual Arts Gallery at Buchanan and Downs.

As the GSA’s Director of Design Excellence, Grooms was responsible for selecting teams of architects and engineers to design federal buildings and approving their designs. He also led the agency’s Art in Architecture program to commission American artists to create permanent contemporary art installations for federal buildings. He oversaw the GSA’s fine art collection of over 23,000 works dating from 1850 to the present day.

Grooms is the author of two books: “The Majesty of Capitol Hill” and “World War II Memorial, Washington, DC”

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