Kenneth Hershenson named 2015 MI Great Artist winner
Kenneth Hershenson, a Clawson, Michigan artist, has shown he does “know jack” when it comes to art after winning MI Great Artist for the 2015 online competition.
Hershenson, 62, was announced as the winner at a ceremony on Dec. 8 at Park West Gallery, where he was given a $1,500 check among other prizes. He admits he was nervous coming into the competition because he is a self-taught artist, but was excited to have been chosen.
“I always worry because I was self-taught, but it’s a validation,” Hershenson says. “You can still do well if you’re self-taught.”
Hershenson worked in architectural design and illustration, including jobs for Disneyland and Starbucks, before becoming a full-time artist. For his MI Great Artist entries, Hershenson submitted acrylic paintings from his “I DO Know Jack!” series that incorporates toy jacks as part of a pun. For instance, his “A Pair of Jacks” painting depicts a jack sitting atop a jack of spades playing card.
“It popped into my mind 30 years ago,” he says of the series. “I started realizing that the word ‘jack’ is used in so many different ways – colloquialisms and stuff – so for the next 30 years when I was working my jobs, if I had an idea I’d sketch it out and put it in my folder.”
MI Great Artist was co-created by Park West Gallery Founder and CEO Albert Scaglione and Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson. The annual competition is open to artists ages 18 and over residing in the counties of Genesee, Lapeer, Livingston, Macomb, Oakland, Shiwassee, St. Clair and Wayne.
“Our sole purpose is to foster the career of artists and we’re very pleased to be able to host this exhibition,” says David Gorman, Park West Gallery Director. “There is not a single finalist that does not deserve winning this top prize.”
A total of 109 artists submitted their works, with the top 25 named semifinalists through public voting. This year’s competition had more than 22,000 votes, which is double the number from last year’s contest.
Five finalists were selected by a five-member panel of art professionals. Hershenson was chosen through a combination of public voting and the panel of judges. The other finalists in this year’s competition were Meredith Bailey, Michael Bollerud, Jennifer Whaley and Larry Zdeb. Patterson congratulated each of them at the ceremony amidst their friends and family.
“When they enter these contests they know there is going to be one winner, but in my mind they are all winners,” Patterson says. “They all clearly have supreme talent, so it’s always a pleasure for me to see the kind of talent we have in-house.”
Along with the prize money, Hershenson will have a solo exhibition at Park West Gallery. The gallery will also frame his entries into the competition. Oakland County will provide scholarships for three workshops at its One Stop Shop Business Center and a two-month exhibition at the Oakland County Galleria in Waterford. His art will be used on promotional materials for an Oakland County quality of life event.
Weatherly Stroh, a Birmingham artist, was the 2014 competition winner. Her works are currently showcased along with the gallery’s Peter Max holiday collection. She says the competition has led to commissioned works as well as exhibiting her horse-inspired paintings in Texas.
“Overall it has been great exposure locally,” she says. “I think it’s helped me establish a name in Michigan.”
The exposure from MI Great Artist benefits artists even if they aren’t the top winner. Pat McManus was a finalist in the 2013 and 2014 competitions, and now has his artwork exclusively represented by Park West Gallery.
“I’m extremely thankful for this contest, it’s through this contest that I was able to be with Park West Gallery,” McManus says.
The remaining finalists each receive a $375 cash prize, framing of the five works of art that were included in the submission from Park West Gallery, a scholarship for a workshop at Oakland County’s One Stop Shop Business Center and a two-month exhibition at Oakland County Galleria in Waterford.