To boost fledgling careers, Darien Alumni Art Show invites creative graduates to exhibit their work

DARIEN — On a mission to boost the fledgling careers of hometown artists, the Darien Alumni Art Show is back for a second year after boasting a successful launch last summer.

Last year’s show stemmed from a desire to provide a forum for former Darien High School graduates to promote their work after missing out on several opportunities — like residencies or gallery exhibitions — during the pandemic, said co-founder Luke Whittaker.

Whittaker is a 2016 DHS graduate and multimedia artist currently based out of Bedford, Mass.

While the show was initially meant as a way to help young artists during the pandemic, Whittaker said it morphed into a desire to establish a solid network for younger artists in Darien.

“What we really wanted was not to just make up for lost opportunities from COVID-19, but also to bring artists back to Darien,” Whittaker said. “It’s evolved into something we really want to continue.”

Now, organizers are calling on interested alumni to submit up to seven pieces for consideration by April 15 if they want to be featured in this year’s show, which will run from June 10-12 at the Mather Homestead.

Abstract artist Katie Southworth will be one of the show’s jurors this year after exhibiting four of her own pieces in last summer’s show.

Now based in Boston, she graduated from DHS in 2012 and credited the local schools’ art program as a place where her own creative instincts flourished.

“The show highlights the power of what can happen when an entire district embraces the arts,” Southworth said. “It’s an extremely powerful thing. It set me up to be where I am now.”

Applicants should have come up through Darien Public Schools and graduated DHS within roughly the last decade, organizers said. They can submit works in multiple mediums, including painting, drawing, sculpture, textiles, photographs and video.

An artisan fair ran in tandem with last year’s art exhibitions, a feature Whittaker said will return this year.

The 2021 show featured 17 artists and artisans, all of whom had graduated between 2012 and 2019. They collectively sold more than $14,000 worth of their work, organizers said.

All proceeds go straight to the artists themselves. The show is free, and organizers fundraise to cover all associated costs.

“We’re not taking any sort of percentage,” Whittaker said.

Southworth, who sold a piece at last year’s show, said hopes are high for this year’s turnout to outpace that of last year. About 270 attendees were at the inaugural show.

“But the most important part to me was just seeing the collective power and empowerment of my peers and fellow Darienites,” Southworth said. “I’m looking forward to doing it again.”