Local artists find outlet for storytelling at Octagon’s 55th annual All-Media Art Show

Jordan Arp,  graduate student getting her MFA degree in integrated visual arts, works in her art studio.

Matty Palamara

Jordan Arp, graduate student getting her MFA degree in integrated visual arts, works in her art studio.

Artists from across the country participated in the Octagon Center for the Arts’ annual “Octagonal: The All-Media Show” to display their work through visual storytelling.

“Octagonal: The All-Media Show” is an annual art show put on by the Octagon Center for the Arts located in downtown Ames. The exhibit opened in 1968 and has highlighted hundreds of artists from dozens of states over the years. The exhibit features an array of mediums such as fiber, clay, metal, paper, glass, wood, painting and mixed media.

Jordan Arp, a graduate student getting her MFA degree in integrated visual arts, won the painting media award for her “Heart of Gold” submission. Arp’s painting was a combination of the Greek mythological storyline of Medusa and Arp’s fascination with idioms.

“I think idioms are really interesting because they’re these weird phrases that don’t really make sense, that express things that aren’t easy to put into words,” Arp said.

Arp elaborated on what kind of impact she wants her work to have on people and how she landed on her master’s thesis.

“My thesis is about using humor, storytelling and interactivity to convey messages because I feel like those three things make people connect a lot more with art,” Arp said.

Many artists believe in the philosophy of “art for art’s sake,” the idea that all art has value aside from its subject. However, Arp states that she makes social practice art, a way of creating art that ignites conversation and social discourse among viewers.

“How can I make a physical thing that will intrigue people and make them think about these weird things that I think about and have conversations?” Arp said.

Ashley Hanson, the juror of the show, reflected on her experience and the quality of the pieces in the show.

“Being able to take in all of these different mediums in all of their glory and trying to see what story they are telling as an individual piece but also as a collection overall was a phenomenal experience with such high-quality art from across the state,” Hanson said.

Hanson also has a background in theater and is the founder of PlaceBase Productions, a theater company that works with communities across the Midwest to connect local residents with their own stories.

“It was a really exciting opportunity for me to utilize some of those other skills I’ve collected and developed along the way of looking at art as a form of storytelling, which is where, as a theater artist of course, I find creative expression to be most palpable,” Hanson said.

Hanson’s background in theater improved her ability to identify underlying storylines in each exhibit piece. The pieces in the exhibit that rose to the top during the judging process were the ones that told unique and timely stories about the world we live in.

“I think the ability to lift up elements of our existing world or expand or create new worlds is something that I’m really interested in,” Hanson said.

Pieces from “Octagonal: The All-Media Show,” will be displayed until 5 p.m. Saturday in the Octagon Center for the Arts.