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Judges Panel

Our selection panel and juried panel bring together a diverse group of curators, art professionals, and art enthusiasts.

2023 Jury Panel

Jury Panel | Washington, DC + Charleston, SC

David Furchgott

David Furchgott is the former CEO of International Arts & Artists, a Washington DC- based non-profit organization dedicated to international and cross-cultural exchange. Furchgott founded and directed IA&A for 27 years. IA&A consists of Hillyer, a contemporary arts space in downtown Washington; an exchange program that has brought over 1,500 foreign arts scholars, trainees, and interns to the U.S.; and most notably, an exhibition service that has toured over 100 art exhibitions to nearly 500 museums across the U.S. and to many other countries. Among other projects, IA&A produced Kara Walker’s exhibition at the 25th International Bienal de Sao Paulo representing the U.S.

From 1979 to 1995, Furchgott was the first executive director of the International Sculpture Center, the international professional organization for sculptors. He began at the ISC by producing the 11th International Sculpture Conference in 1980, which included the largest international temporary exhibition of public-scale sculpture ever presented in the U.S. to that date. He started the ISC’s membership program which (by 1995) had 15,000 individual and organizational members in 72 countries. He also founded and published Sculpture magazine, the journal of record of contemporary sculpture. Under his direction, the ISC produced major international touring exhibitions, including those of David Smith, Peter Voulkos, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Mark Rothko.

Prior to his work from Washington, Furchgott was director of Community Arts for the South Carolina Arts Commission and Curator of Education at the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston. A native Charlestonian, he returned to S.C. in 2019.

Jury Panel | Chattanooga, TN

Ellen Simak

As a museum curator for thirty years, Ellen Simak specialized in American art. She has curated exhibitions on a wide variety of artists and media. Since her retirement in 2013, Ellen served on Public Art Chattanooga for 7 years.

Her career began at the Joslyn Museum of Art in Omaha, Nebraska before coming to the Hunter Museum of American Art where she worked for 25 years, first as curator then chief curator. She has organized exhibitions on both historical and contemporary artists, including over 20 solo exhibitions for Southeastern and Chattanooga artists. Her exhibitions cover the fields of painting, sculpture, contemporary glass and book arts. Ellen has written numerous exhibition catalogues as well as essays for two museum collection catalogs. From 2003-5, the Hunter Museum added a new wing to the building. During that time Ellen worked with education department to totally reinterpret and rehang the permanent collection.

Ellen was appointed to Public Art Chattanooga commission in 2013 and rotated off in 2021, having served for 3 years as chair. During that period the commission sited many notable works of public art ranging from large memorials to smaller projects that enliven neighborhoods throughout the city.

She has been a juror for numerous exhibitions and art fairs including Winter Park (FL) Sidewalk Festival and 4 Bridges Arts Festival (Chattanooga), and a reviewer on grant panels (most recently on Artist Work Grants in 2020-21 which offered funds to artists affected by the pandemic).

Jury Panel | Atlanta, GA

Fahamu Pecou

Dr. Fahamu Pecou received his BFA at the Atlanta College of Art in 1997 and a Ph.D. from Emory University in 2018. Dr. Pecou exhibits his art worldwide in addition to lectures and speaking engagements at colleges and universities.

As an educator, Dr. Pecou has developed (ad)Vantage Point, a narrative-based arts curriculum focused on Black male youth. Dr. Pecou is also the founding Director of the African Diaspora Art Museum of Atlanta (ADAMA).

Pecou's work is featured in noted private and public national and international collections including; Smithsonian National Museum of African American Art and Culture, Societe Generale (Paris), Nasher Museum at Duke University, The High Museum of Art, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Seattle Art Museum, Paul R. Jones Collection, ROC Nation, Clark Atlanta University Art Collection and Museum of Contemporary Art Georgia.

In 2020, Pecou was one of 6 artists selected for Emory University's groundbreaking Arts & Social Justice Fellowship. Additionally, Pecou was the Georgia awardee for the 2020 South Arts Prize. In 2017 he was the subject of a retrospective exhibition "Miroirs de l'Homme" in Paris, France. A recipient of the 2016 Joan Mitchell Foundation "Painters and Sculptors" Award, his work also appears in several films and television shows including; HBO's Between the World and Me, Blackish, and The Chi. Pecou's work has also been featured on numerous publications including Atlanta Magazine, Hanif Abdurraqib's poetry collection, A Fortune for Your Disaster and the award-winning collection of short stories by Rion Amilcar Scott, The World Doesn't Require You.

Jury Panel | New Orleans, LA

Maurita Poole

Maurita N. Poole is the Executive Director of Newcomb Art Museum. She holds a doctorate from Emory University in Anthropology, an MPH from Rollins School of Public Health, and a BS in Arabic and Government from Georgetown University. Her professional museum training was attained at Williams College Museum of Art, The Walters Art Museum, and The Smithsonian National Museum of African Art. She is an alum of the 2020 Center for Curatorial Leadership program.

Poole most recently served as director and curator at Clark Atlanta University Art Museum (CAUAM), which holds one of the foremost collections of African American art of the mid-twentieth century. As director, she strengthened the museum’s infrastructure and provided opportunities for the next generation of museum professionals. She created and managed the Tina Dunkley Fellowship in American Art, a collaborative Diversity in Art Museum Leadership Initiative (DAMLI) involving CAUAM, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA), and the Zuckerman Museum of Art (ZMA). In addition, she developed the “Black Optics Artist Residency,” a platform that connects artists of African descent from the American South and Global South.

Her curatorial projects have focused on African and African Diaspora art. Her most recent exhibition, co-curated with Laura Blereau, at Newcomb Art Museum is Metamorphoses: Highlights from the Permanent Collection.In 2021, she curated the complementary exhibitions Wilay Mendez Paez: Notes from the Underground and Portals to a New World at The Atlanta Contemporary and CAUAM. Other noteworthy shows include Guy Gabon: L’Autre Bord/ The Bridge of Beyond (2020), Crafting for Life (2019), Alfred Conteh: The Sweet Spot (2018), Frederick D. Jones and The Social Surreal (2017).

Jury Panel | Richmond, VA

Noah Scalin

Noah Scalin is the creator of the Webby Award-winning project Skull-A-Day and the collaborative science fiction universe & performance art project League of Space Pirates. He was the Grand Prize winner of ArtFields 2022 and his collaboration with Old Navy was one of the most viewed commercials of 2020. Noah was the inaugural artist-in-residence at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business and his fine art has been exhibited internationally, including installations in Times Square, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Mütter Museum, and multiple solo exhibitions in Krause Gallery in NYC. His work has been commissioned by Old Navy, Capital One, and Goodwill; and has been featured in dozens of publications including Fast Company, Hi-Fructose, Juxtapoz, USA Today, The Telegraph, and the New York Times. Noah is the author of six books, a sought after public speaker on creativity, and was a co-host of the Emmy-nominated VPM PBS program The Art Scene. He is also the founder of Another Limited Rebellion an art & innovation consulting firm that he co-runs with his sister and business partner Mica Scalin. 

2023 Selection Panel

Selection Panel | San Antonio, TX

Jennifer L. Datchuk

Artist & Professor at Texas State University

Jennifer Ling Datchuk is an artist born in Warren, Ohio, and raised in Brooklyn, New York. Her work is an exploration of her layered identity – as a woman, a Chinese woman, as an “American,” as a third culture kid. Trained in ceramics, Datchuk works with porcelain and other materials often associated with traditional women’s work, such as textiles and hair, to discuss fragility, beauty, femininity, intersectionality, identity, and personal history.

Datchuk holds an MFA in Artisanry from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and a BFA in Crafts from Kent State University. She is an Assistant Professor of art at Texas State University and lives and maintains a studio practice in San Antonio, Texas. She has received grants from the Artist Foundation of San Antonio, travel grant from Artpace, and the Linda Lighton International Artist Exchange Program to research the global migrations of porcelain and blue and white pattern decoration. She was awarded a residency through the Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum to conduct her studio practice at the Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin, Germany and has participated in residencies at the Pottery Workshop in Jingdezhen, China, Vermont Studio Center, European Ceramic Work Center in the Netherlands and Artpace in San Antonio, Texas. In 2017, she received the Emerging Voices award from the American Craft Council and in 2020 was named a United States Artist Fellow in Craft.

Selection Panel | Davidson, NC

Lia Newman

Director & Curator at Van Every/Smith Galleries

Lia R. Newman has been the director and curator of the Van Every/Smith Galleries at Davidson College since January 2013. She earned a BA in art history and a BFA in general studio with concentrations in sculpture and photography from Winthrop University and an MA from Duke University. Newman is responsible for curating exhibitions, developing exhibition-related programming, and overseeing and growing the Davidson College Art Collection, including the campus sculpture collection. With a specific interest in socially and politically engaged art practices, Newman’s curatorial projects have explored an array of topics from HIV to immigration. Recent exhibitions include the multi-venue traveling exhibition True Likeness, co-curated with Tom Stanley and featuring works by Deborah Roberts, Antonius-Tin Bui, Deborah Luster, Endia Beal, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Mickalene Thomas, Wendy Red Star, Sam Doyle, Gene Merritt, and others; Harold Mendez: the days of yesterday are all numbered in sum; Hiwa K: Eyes See Far, Hands Too Short to Reach; Yinka Shonibare CBE: The American Library; Arthur Jafa: Love is the Message, the Message is Death; Regina Jose Galindo: Bearing Witness, and Seeing/Saying: Images and Words, curated with Dr. Van Hillard, featuring Shimon Attie, John Baldessari, Mark Bradford, Bethany Collins, Teresita Fernández, Howard Finster, Christian Marclay, Shirin Neshat, Dennis Oppenheim, José Parlá, Dan Perjovschi, Raymond Pettibon, Santiago Sierra, Hank Willis Thomas, David Wojnarowicz, among others.. Over the past ten years, Newman has helped the college acquire nearly 1,000 works of art, including significant sculptures and commissions that have helped diversify the collection.

Selection Panel | Columbia, SC

Michael Neumeister

Curator at Columbia Museum of Art

Michael Neumeister is Curator at the Columbia Museum of Art, South Carolina. Since joining the museum in February 2022, he has organized Sigmund Abeles: Shades of Life and Forward Together: African American Art from the Judy and Patrick Diamond Collection. Among other projects, he is presently organizing an exhibition of postwar American abstraction.

Previously, at the American Federation of Arts, New York, Michael coordinated numerous traveling exhibitions, including the international tours of Yoko Ono: Mend Piece and Matisse as Printmaker: Works from The Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation. His recent writing appears in the exhibition catalogue, Art and Activism at Tougaloo College (Hirmer, 2022).

Michael received his MA from the City College of New York, City University of New York, where he has also taught art history. His research interests pertain to the relationship between American art and religious belief in the 20th century and the reception of modernism in the United States. He is currently preparing an article on Florine Stettheimer’s mature oeuvre.

Selection Panel | Huntsville, AL

Scott L. Smith

Printmaker & Professor at Alabama A&M

Scott L. Smith is originally from Sandusky, Ohio. He holds B.F.A.s in Studio Arts and Art History from Ohio University and an M.F.A. in Printmaking from the University of Miami (Fla.). Scott was formally trained as a master printmaker at Vinalhaven Press and Universal Limited Art Editions (ULAE) where he worked with the likes of Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Robert Indiana, James Rosenquist, Jose Bedia, and Jane Hammond. As a Signature Member of the National Collage Society, Scott has been featured in more than 50 solo and group shows in the U.S. and Australia. His award-winning work is included in numerous collections including the Shack Collection (Miami), the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Southern Graphics Council Archive, the University Print Collection (Iowa State Univ.), and the Huntsville Arts Council. Two of his assemblages are featured in the book, titled, “Collage in All Dimensions,” co- published by the National Collage Society and Kent State University. Currently, Scott teaches printmaking and art history at Alabama A&M University and resides, with his wife, Michelle, and daughters, Cecilia and Delaney in Owens Cross Roads, Alabama.

Selection Panel | San Diego, CA

Yolanda Sommer

Manager of Diversity Recruitment & Partnerships at Penland School of Craft

Yolanda was born and raised in Charleston, SC. She is a graduate of the University of South Carolina with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism/Communications. Yolanda has spent the last 10 years living and working at Penland School of Craft located in the mountains of North Carolina. Through her career at Penland, Yolanda has supported many artists at the Penland Gallery, raised funds for scholarships in the development department, and, most recently, created, organized and produced Penland’s annual HBCU Craft School Tour. The tour brings art majors from different Historically Black Colleges and Universities to Penland to for a three-day intense tour of campus tour. Yolanda is dedicated to making the world of craft more accessible for people of color.

As an artist, Yolanda has worked in clay, small metals, and textiles. She feels most comfortable working in the letterpress studio and has produced a line of greeting cards. Yolanda, her husband, and their dog Maddy have recently moved to San Diego, California where she continues to work for Penland School of Craft, remotely.

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