By Debra Dennis
Every work of art is unique, and diverse creations by Dallas County Community College District students reflected that fact as they competed this month in the League for Innovation in the Community College's annual art contest.
Creations in sculpture, prints, textiles, painting and other mediums showcased students' talents that were exhibited in the Kiva Gallery at Mountain View College.
Five winners took honors during the annual art contest for community college students — who all will move forward to the national level of the competition — but only one student has taken the top honor two years in a row.
Juan Cruz, who has studied at both Richland and Brookhaven colleges, was awarded the Innovation Student Award for art. His winning piece — "Crimen de Estado," an acrylic on mounted paper — was among the works entered in the 2016 League for Innovation Student Art Competition.
"My work is based on my daily life, relating certain objects to my past experience," Cruz said. "The essential parts of my work are observation, the environment and everyday objects." He likes to mix media like acrylic, charcoal and dry pastels, and he works with both man-made and natural materials like sand and brush hairs to add texture to his pieces.
"I'm drawn to objects that people reject or ignore such as the bottle or the back of a canvas or the courtyard. There is so much beauty is so many objects. People just throw them away. They don't see the beauty. The bottle — it's a metaphor. I'm shining a light on things that are forgotten or ignored," explained Cruz.
Cruz uses materials that convey personal memories and experiences. He said, "These objects speak on behalf of an event or period in my life. I don't just paint what I see. Each item is connected to my memories and feelings."
The DCCCD League for Innovation Student Art Competition is a component of the greater League for Innovation in the Community College. This year marks the 30th competition.
Cruz will receive a Certificate of National Merit, and his work will be published in the Student League Art Competition's publication.
"What a joy it was to join Juan Cruz again at the Kiva Gallery," said Thomas Motley, professor of art and art history at Richland College.
Cruz has studied art appreciation and drawing under Motley's tutelage. His art is a nod to his creative skill and hard work, said Motley, who added that Cruz is developing into a professional artist.
The four other DCCCD students who were chosen to move forward to the national competition are:
The competition was judged by Maria Teresa G. Pedroche, head of community engagement at the Dallas Museum of Art.
DCCCD is one of 700 members of the League for Innovation in the Community College, a non-profit organization focused on improving community colleges through innovation, technology and experimentation to make a positive difference in the lives of students. Dr. Joe May, DCCCD's chancellor, will be a keynote speaker at the group's Innovations Conference this spring, scheduled March 20-23 in Chicago.