Showcase of Excellence shines the spotlight on high school artists

Published 10:45 am Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Not every young artist can say they’ve had their work in the same gallery that’s shown Hansel Mieth, Philip Dusenbury, and other noted visual artists. Fewer still can say they’ve won top honors in a professionally juried competition before they’ve graduated high school.

The annual Showcase of Excellence fine arts competition at Tryon Fine Arts Center provides this unique opportunity for aspiring artists and their dedicated teachers. This year’s Showcase of Excellence will be held Feb. 17 – March 10 in TFAC’s Gallery I.

Thanks to an all-volunteer committee and the generous support of arts patrons throughout the community, Showcase of Excellence has honored top young talent in painting, drawing, sculpture, printmaking, photography and digital media, and mixed media. High school art teachers assist students in artwork submissions, and a professional working artist awards a first, second, and third prize in each medium as well as the prestigious Best in Show. Generating even more excitement, each award includes a cash prize for the student and a grant for the teacher. Following an opening reception and awards ceremony, the students’ work is professionally curated and displayed.

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“Showcase of Excellence offers aspiring students a professional-level experience in art competition and exhibition unlikely to be accessible in most communities,” explained Mike Rigney, one of the founding volunteers with the arts competition, and long-time chair of the program.

Over the past five years, dozens of high school artists from Greer, S.C. to Hendersonville, N.C. and everywhere in between,  have shared their art through Showcase of Excellence. The talented local students in Polk County and Landrum consistently make a strong showing, often taking top honors in the competition.

For many prize winners, Showcase of Excellence is the first time they receive a monetary prize for their artwork, edifying encouragement towards a career in the arts. Benefits last far beyond the initial exhibition and awards.

“Students accrue real-time experience, exposure to professional critique, and nurture their art aspirations, while participating in a program that helps enable the same opportunity for students who follow,” explained Rigney. “Plus, the winning teachers’ grants assists in bringing even more quality arts education into the classroom — an area where teachers otherwise may struggle to find the necessary funding to support their programming.”

For the 2018 Showcase of Excellence, on display Feb. 17 through March 10, the committee has renewed the program’s focus on honoring the students and teachers, and easing the participation process. Busy teachers can now register online, and with the exhibit happening early in the year, conflicts with other student obligations are minimized.

Following the model of other high school arts programs, Showcase of Excellence originally included an art auction component. Proceeds went to the students and also supported the Be Inspired Grant program. However, for 2018 the committee has eliminated the auction in lieu of a bigger opening celebration on Saturday, Feb. 17 at 10:30 a.m.

“It’s completely focused on honoring the student artists and the teachers that guide them,” said Rigney. “We want to encourage the next generation of young artists.”

Submissions for Showcase of Excellence are open now; interested students in grades 9-12 should contact their art teachers. For more information on how you can support or attend Showcase of Excellence, visit or call TFAC at 828-859-8322.

– submitted by Michelle Flemming