‘Art Unleashed’ exhibition features some of the city’s best young artists

Sewon An's "Guhmi," made of steel wire, will be on display. Photo by Ken Yanoviak.

The doors to the imaginations of artists will be wide open and audiences are invited in to witness Art Unleashed, a celebration and sale of one-of-a-kind works by University of the Arts students, faculty, and alumni. In its fifth year, the show features contemporary jewelry, ceramics, photography, crafts, furniture, painting, sculpture, illustration, and more. In addition to being a showcase of art, the event serves as a fundraiser for the UArts Sam S. McKeel Promising Young Artists Scholarship Fund. UArts, founded in 1876, is dedicated solely to educating students in the visual and performing arts, design, and writing.

“Our alumni and faculty are successful, working artists who contribute to the creative economy of the region and the country in material ways,” said Sean T. Buffington, UArts president. “This show only reinforces that while also introducing the next generation.”

One member of that next generation: Sewon An (pronounced Say-wahn Ahn), a senior majoring in metals and jewelry design. Formerly a sculptor and painter, Sewon, who’s originally from Korea, likes her current medium. When she did sculptures, they were “large scale and took a long time to make,” she said. She likes the intricacy of smaller pieces.

Sewon is inspired by nature, especially insects and spiders. “I search the history of insects and read about it and relate it to my design,” she said.

Take spiders: “I like their delicate legs,” she said. So she started drawing and painting them and even created paper formations to see what they might look like prior to her working with the metals.

“It took me tons of hours to make,” she said of the process which involved binding wires, among other tasks. “I had to really tighten them up and think about weight and the thickness of the wires.”

It was also challenging to her fingers. “I couldn’t feel anything for a while,” she said. “Before, I hadn’t worked too much with steel wires. I didn’t know it would be that hard and hurt my hands that much.”

Other pieces are difficult for different reasons, like a flower ring she made with casting wax. After melting and shaping it, she engraved each piece with veins to make the leaves look real. “Engraving takes a lot of time,” she said. “That was challenging for me.”

Sewon, who lived in New Jersey briefly before settling in Philadelphia, likes that the show allows her to gain real world experience while still a student. Participation means making pieces, pricing them, and receiving feedback from an audience, which is helpful.

“I learn how to make the jewelry more comfortable to wear,” she said.

And even if she’s making pieces similar to previous ones, it’s never boring. “It’s different every time,” she said. “It’s fun.”

Art Unleashed is coming to Hamilton Hall at the University of the Arts, 320 S. Broad St., Philadelphia. The VIP opening reception is 5pm on April 9; a Preview Party follows at 6pm ($250 for tickets to both; $150 for the Preview Party only). The exhibition itself is free and runs April 10 – 15, open daily from 12pm – 5pm. For tickets and more information, visit uarts.edu/artunleashed or call 215-717-6140.