One talented painter will learn on June 5 if their creativity has earned them the $10,000 Best in Show award at the annual Bethesda Painting Awards.
“That $10,000 award will naturally make a big difference for anyone who wins it,” said Erin Raedeke, of Montgomery Village, one of eight artists vying for the award. “But beyond that, I’m just so honored to be in the show.”
Honoring regional artists is exactly what motivated business owner and arts patron Carol Trawick to establish the annual show in 2005. In addition to the first prize, The Jim and Carol Trawick Foundation also funds a $2,000 second and a $1,000 third prize.
The only caveat, aside from talent, is that the artists live and work in Maryland, Virginia or the District. “We could easily have opened the show up beyond the local region, but we wanted to recognize talented artists in our own backyard,” said Stephanie Coppula, of the Bethesda Urban Partnership (BUP), which presents the show.
“It shows you don’t have to go to New York City to see talented artists or great art,” she said of the exhibit on display from June 5 to 29 in Bethesda’s Gallery B.
The competition is rigorous. This year, some 300 artists submitted five images each to a three-judge panel of art experts from academia and art institutions. The judges then invited about 35 of the artists to submit additional images. Winnowed down to eight semi-finalists, the artwork is displayed on the walls of Gallery B for the judges’ final decision.
“The finalist is selected once the judges view the pieces in person, so they can really see the depth and technique of the painting,” Coppula said. “Each artist has about 10 feet of wall space, so depending on the size, they can hang one painting or several.”
Now in it’s15th year, the show reflects a diversity of styles. From geometric abstracts to minimalist landscapes to tender portraits, there is something of interest for every art lover. “The show has a nice following. Area artists are certainly aware of it, and we see a lot of foot traffic in the gallery,” Coppula said.
This year, the display includes four “cloth” paintings by Raedeke, to include one of bed sheets given as a wedding present to her parents in the 1970s. Highly realistic and colorful, they are still life taken from real life.
“It’s a fertile area for me. Just the colors can bring back memories,” she said. “Art is a visual language that enables me to speak about experiences I’ve had. You paint something and it’s a true and reliable thing; it doesn’t fade away like something you’ve said.”
In common with her fellow contestants, Raedeke is more of a thriving artist than a starving one. With solo shows across the country and even a group show at London’s National Portrait Gallery to her credit, the mother of three paints in her home studio and teaches art once a week.
This is her third time as a semifinalist in the show, having competed in 2013 and 2016. No matter the outcome, she said she is thrilled to be back. And the show organizers are equally glad to see artists return. “We encourage semifinalists to apply again. With time, they go on to perfect their craft,” Cuppola said.
The Bethesda Painting Awards, a juried competition and exhibition produced by the Bethesda Arts & Entertainment District under the auspices of BUP, features paintings by eight regional artists. The top prize winners will be announced and honored during a June 5 private reception and a public opening will take place June 14, 6 to 8 p.m., at Gallery B, 7700 Wisconsin Ave., Suite E, Bethesda. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Call 301-215-7990 or visit www.bethesda.org.