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Judges Panel

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

2024 Jury Panel

Jury Panel | New Haven, CT

Dominic Chambers


Dominic Chambers (b. 1993 St. Louis, MO; lives and works in New Haven, CT) creates vibrant paintings that simultaneously engage art historical models, such as color-field painting and gestural abstraction, and contemporary concerns around race, identity, and the necessity for leisure and reflection. Interested in how art can function as a mode for understanding, recontextualizing, or renegotiating one’s relationship to the world, the artist sees painting as a critical and intellectual endeavor, as much as an aesthetic one. A writer himself, Chambers draws inspiration from literature, especially Magical Realism and the writing of W.E.B. Du Bois, particularly Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk, and one of its central themes―the veil. A product of racial injustice that is a metaphorical lens through which Black bodies are observed and experienced, references to the veil appear throughout the artist’s work, whether in large swaths of color that obscure his figures or in the recurring use of a raindrop motif as both an active and passive element in his canvasses.

Photo by Daniel Kukla

Jury Panel | Surfside Beach, SC

Amira Hanafi


Amira Hanafi is a poet, culture worker, and artist. Their work uses systems, games, performance, and publishing to bring together communities of real and fictional characters who speak, interact, and sometimes exchange identities. Amira’s work has been exhibited widely online and in offline spaces around the world, most recently at the British Library, the 5th International Biennale of Casablanca and at Les Abattoirs Musée in Toulouse, France. Their digital poem, Mexicans in Canada, won the Grand Prize at ArtFields 2023. They are the author of the books Forgery (Green Lantern Press, 2011) and Minced English (2010), a number of limited edition print works, and a growing number of works of electronic literature, including as part of the transdisciplinary project A dictionary of the revolution, which won the Public Library Prize for Electronic Literature, the New Media Writing Prize, and an Artraker Award. Amira is currently Writer in Residence at Coastal Carolina University, where they teach creative writing and work on projects that aim to constitute language for fluid identities and border-crossing bodies.

Photo by CCU Photography Department

Jury Panel | Biloxi, MS/span>

David Houston

Director and Chief Curator, Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art

David Houston is the Director and Chief Curator of the Ohr O’keefe Museum in Biloxi Museum, a Frank Gehry design on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. He was previously the Director of the Bartlett Center at Columbus State University, Georgia, The Director of Curatorial at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Arkansas, and The Chief Curator and Co-Director of the Ogden Museum in New Orleans.

Houston has taught the history of art at The Clemson University School of Architecture, The University of New Orleans, and The Brandenburg Technical University, Germany. He is the author of over fifty publications on art, architecture, photography, and self-taught art.

Jury Panel | Tarpon Springs, FL

Christine Renc-Carter

Executive Director, Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art

Christine Renc-Carter is the Executive Director of the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art (LRMA) at St. Petersburg College (SPC) in Tarpon Springs, Florida. Christine’s career spans 25 years as a museum professional, working with museums and galleries throughout the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. area and Florida. Her mission is to engage and inspire others through the power of art and education. Christine earned a BFA in Printmaking in 1997 from the Maryland Institute, College of Art on scholarship and studied paper preservation at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. She has worked with major collections of the Baltimore Museum of Art, Vero Beach Museum of Art, and the Gulf Coast Museum of Art. At SPC, she established the Foundation’s public art collection, curated blockbuster exhibitions for the Florida International Museum, and was the Chief Curator for LRMA before being appointed Executive Director in 2022. Prior to LRMA, Christine was the Adult Education Director at the Dunedin Fine Art Center (DFAC) where she managed a robust studio program of 85 faculty, international workshops, and oversaw DFAC’s studio expansion on three campuses. An accomplished artist, Christine shows her mixed-media work alongside her parents at their art gallery in Dunedin, Florida, and with the 24 Hands Printmakers Collective. Her work is exhibited throughout the U.S. and in Japan and included in collections such as the Marriott Corporation, NBC, and the curator of the Fogg Museum at Harvard University and private collections worldwide.

Jury Panel | Washington, DC

Marcel Taylor


Marcel Taylor is a DC-based visual artist who uses his work to engage in critical commentary on social issues. His previous body of work, “Cityflux,” is a series of abstract paintings focused on gentrification processes, and its effects on the endemic populations of Washington DC.

His new body of work, “Unapologetic,” is a series of figurative works that attempt to counter the negative stereotypes of African Americans as seen across all media platforms. Drawing from quotidian narratives, The Unapologetic series consists of bold paintings that display cultural and historical snapshots of African American life. As with the Afrofuturism movement, Unapologetic reimagines worlds that oppose racial archetypes and “reclaims the past and present for a more empowering future for Blacks.” Utilizing photography, AI, and social media, Marcel creates paintings that portray African American narratives as portrayals of varying aspects of Black life.

Marcel received his BFA from Howard University in 1992, and his MFA from Lesley University in 2017. Since receiving his Masters, Marcel has received several awards from the DC Commission of the Arts and Humanities (CAH), including 4 Individual Artists fellowship grants and 1 public arts grant. He has also received 4 Washingtonian Collection grant awards for his works inducted into the permanent CAH Art Bank.

In 2023, Marcel participated as a public speaker in an event entitled “Stories from the DC Art Bank,” held inside of the Martin Luther King Memorial Library, and which was sponsored by the CAH. In April, Marcel will be exhibiting his works in a solo show at Harmony Hall in Fort Washington Maryland. Finally, in November of this year, he will exhibit works at the Hilyer Gallery in Washington, DC.

2024 Selection Panel

Selection Panel | Penland, NC

Adam Case Leestma

Print & Letterpress Studio Coordinator at Penland School of Craft

Adam Case Leestma was born and raised in Titusville, New Jersey. He holds an MFA in Printmaking from Ohio University and a BFA in Printmaking from The University of Hartford.

Adam is currently the Print & Letterpress Studio Coordinator at Penland School of Craft, in Penland, North Carolina. Before working at Penland, Adam taught at Utah State University, West Virginia University, Davis & Elkins College, and East Tennessee State University.

Outside of Penland, Adam collects and restore s printing presses, and runs a small studio with his wife, Sage, and their five cats. When Adam is not herding cats, he works primarily in woodcuts and enjoys making narrative prints, pulling inspiration from graphic novels, regional folklore, and the rout ine of the world around him. Recently he worked with organizations including Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership (NeTREP) and Visit Johnson City Foundation to produce a series of woodcuts featuring Northeast Tennessee mountains and local land marks. His work is in a number of private and public collections including the University of Tennessee - Knoxville, the Southern Graphics Council Archives at Kennesaw - State University, and Special Collections & Archives at Utah State University.

Selection Panel | Portland, ME

Ayumi Horie


Ayumi Horie is a full-time studio potter in Portland, Maine. She is recognized as a leader in craft, through her work pushing the ceramics field to be more expansive and politically engaged. She has won numerous honors including this year’s Maine Craft Artist Award from the Maine Crafts Association, a Distinguished Fellow in Craft g rant from United States Artists in 2015 , and an Honorary Member of NCECA, the National Council for Education in the Ceramic Arts, in 2020 for her contribution to the field. Most recently, she seeded the vision and helped create the Craft Archive Fellowship at the Center for Craft to support scholarship and archival research around underrepresented and non-dominant craft narratives. Horie’s work is in numerous public and private collections, including the Museum of Art and Design and the Farnsworth Art Museu m. She has taught and lectured nationally and internationally for the past 20 years and is currently President of the Board at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts.

Selection Panel | Atlanta, GA

Kevin Cole

Artist & Educator

Kevin Cole received his B.S. from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, an M.A. in art education from the University of Illinois at Urbana, and an M.F.A. from Northern Illinois University. Within the last 32 years, he has received 31 grants and fellowships, 66 awards in art, and 51 teaching awards. He received the Working Artist Fellowship from the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia. Georgia Trend Magazine just named him one of the Most Notable Georgians in 2023. Mr. Cole received the 2020 Governor’s Award for the Arts and Humanities in the State of Georgia and the 2019 Nexus Award. His artwork has been featured in more than 500 exhibitions throughout the United States and abroad. Cole’s artwork is included in more than 4,000 public, private, and corporate collections. Public collections include the National Museum of African American History and Culture at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC; The Georgia Museum, Athens, GA; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA; William Jefferson Clinton Library, Little Rock, AR; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT; The Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans, LA; The David C. Driskell Center, University of Maryland at College Park; and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, Philadelphia, PA. Cole has also created more than 47 public artworks, including the Coca-Cola Centennial Olympic Mural for the 1996 Olympic Games.

His artwork has been featured in more than 141 publications, recently The Guardian Magazine in Paris, France, as well as The Washington Post, Sculpture Magazine, The Union-Tribune in San Diego, CA, and most recently Forbes Magazine.

Selection Panel | Cambridge, MA

Paula Tognarelli

Curator, Editor, Writer, Grant Writer, & Project Manager

Paula Tognarelli recently retired as a cultural administrator, working as the Executive Director of the Griffin Museum of Photography in Massachusetts since 2007 and beginning as Deputy Director and Intern from 2001, producing on average 54 exhibitions a year at the museum. She frequently reviewed at national and local portfolio events and jumpstarted hundreds of photographers’ careers. Since her retirement, she has founded a company with four other individuals called Firestarters that services creatives and the creative industry.

Prior to her career as an arts administrator, Paula spent 25 years in the Graphic Arts which led her from craftsperson to VP of Operations for a company that included 12 printing companies across the United States. In the late nineties, Printing Impressions Magazine named her one of 12 women across the United States who contributed to major digital advances and workflows in the printing and graphic arts industries.

She holds an M.S. in Arts Administration from Boston University, a BA from Regis College, is a graduate of the New England School of Photography, and was on a path that she has since abandoned for a Master’s in Education from Lesley University. She has juried and curated well over 100 exhibitions and awards for other institutions nationally and internationally.

Selection Panel | Cornelius, NC

Simone El Bey

Visual Arts and Education Director

Simone El Bey joined Cain Center for the Arts in 2021 as a Studio Program coordinator. Originally from Charlotte, NC Simone comes from a family of strong community commitment. She has taught in the school system in NC and TX. She has worked with numerous non-profit organizations to help build the presence of Art and emotional intelligence in the community. Simone has operated under the umbrella of Art and Education for the past twelve years. Simone has previously worked with several local nonprofit organizations and schools such as Project L.I.F.T, Johnson C. Smith University, Park, and Recreation Dept, the Boys and Girls Club, Community in Schools and Apprentice Academy.

Her passion is rooted in Education and Visual Arts. She specializes in programming and has created curricula for alternative and charter schools during her teaching years. Simone studied at the University of North Carolina and Southern New Hampshire University. She is excited to strengthen her commitment to the Arts and Community through Cain Center for the Arts. She is a natural visual artist and in her free time specializes in Watercolor and Acrylic artwork; she loves to read, travel, and hike. Simone and her family continue to reside in Charlotte, NC.

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