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Gallery Gives UWF Art Student A Place To Shine

Rebecca Riggs


A local art gallery is giving a UWF student some scholarship money, and a chance to make a little more. “It’s really a fantastic opportunity for our students and we couldn’t be more grateful to Blue Morning Gallery for doing this,” said Dr. David Earle, the interim chair of the Department of Art and Design at the University of West Florida.

He’s talking about a $1,000 scholarship given to a UWF junior each year by Blue Morning Gallery, a commercial art gallery in downtown Pensacola. “The student doesn’t even apply (for the scholarship). It’s entirely up to the faculty to nominate students, and what faculty does is they look at students who are really proficient (in) a wide variety of artistic media and show artistic promise, as well has academic excellence.”

In addition to the scholarship funds, the student who is chosen is also given an area to display their artwork, and perhaps sell some, at the gallery.

“They basically selected three students that they thought would be good for the scholarship, and then they had us each submit a proposal for stuff that we’d like to hang in the show if we were accepted. And I was accepted,” said Rebecca Riggs. She is the latest recipient of the scholarship. She would have had her exhibition at Blue Morning Gallery this past spring, but because of the coronavirus pandemic it has been pushed back to October.

Rebecca is proficient in many areas of art, but her current interest is photography. Film photography.

“I like the process of the darkroom. When you take a picture with a digital camera you see it. It’s like an instant gratification kind of a thing which is really nice but it’s what we’re used to, and I like taking a picture and not having it pop up on my screen immediately. (I like) having to go through the process of developing it and printing it in order to be able to see what’s on the film.”

For her exhibition at Blue Morning Gallery, Rebecca had planned on exclusively showcasing photos from a trip to Ireland.

“And while we were there, we went to a place called Newgrange, which is an ancient Neolithic burial mound. All of the ancient mounds are aligned with cosmic events, so Newgrange happens to be aligned with the winter solstice. And they only let a certain amount of people every year in to experience the sun rising over the horizon and entering the burial chamber and illuminating it from the inside.” 

Ascension. This photograph was taken of the ceiling inside of Newgrange, the neolithic burial mound, on the East coast of Ireland. These stacked stones help to support the structure.
Credit Rebecca Riggs

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Rebecca entered and won a lottery to return to that site during the Winter Solstice. 

“I was one of 60 people chosen out of like 30,000 people who put in their names, So I got to go back and I got to take pictures and experienced and made art based on just that moment. Which was really cool! So that was what I wanted to just include in the Blue Morning Gallery show. But then, after having more time after COVID and everything and having more time to prepare I decided to include other pictures from traveling as well.”

Those pictures will be on display beginning in October. Dr. Earle says that they will need to be a bit creative in promoting the exhibition.

“Rebecca’s installation is going to be up for probably about a month," said Earle. "Usually the artist gets to have his or her time on the sun with a reception as well. We are going to have to do away with that this year, but we have ways to work around that. What we are going to do, most likely, is have a video walk-through with Rebecca, who is going to give an artist statement and describe some of her work. And we’re going to put that up on line on our (web page) and then on Blue Morning’s page as well.”

And the planning has already begun on the next batch of scholarship candidates.

“Over the next two months or so we’re going to have another meeting and talk about all the scholarships. So there is going to be another one this year. Blue Morning is going to have to double-up on giving us space both now and in the spring as well.”

For their part, the artists who are part of the Blue Morning Gallery cooperative each contribute to the scholarship fund. They feel that giving artists experience in exhibiting their work in a commercial gallery is important to building a career in the arts. The scholarship program has been going for about a decade. 

Bob Barrett has been a radio broadcaster since the mid 1970s and has worked at stations from northern New York to south Florida and, oddly, has been able to make a living that way. He began work in public radio in 2001. Over the years he has produced nationally syndicated programs such as The Environment Show and The Health Show for Northeast Public Radio's National Productions.