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Arts & Culture

Student Art Sale Set for April 12

The annual celebration of student creators across NC State's campus returns to Talley Student Union next week.

NC State students display their art at the 2023 Student Art Sale.
NC State students display their art at the 2023 Student Art Sale.

On Friday, April 12, Talley Student Union’s Ballroom will be transformed into a bustling art market. 

The annual Student Art Sale will feature artwork available for purchase to the general public from students across campus. For the second year in a row, the event will feature a hybrid sale model – from 3-6:30 p.m., students, faculty, staff and members of the public will have an opportunity to purchase artwork in person. Starting at 7 p.m. on April 12, any unsold artwork will move to an online sale. 

NC State’s Student Art Sale is unique in that 100% of the proceeds go to the student artists selling the pieces and the sale accepts artists from any major or discipline. Amy Sawyers-Williams, Arts NC State’s manager of outreach and engagement, believes that every college at NC State has been represented in the sale over the years. 

Sawyers-Williams said she recently spoke to a researcher at the University of Wisconsin, which is also trying to start a student art sale and art acquisition. The researcher told her that he couldn’t find many other sales that both bought art for their collections (Arts NC State also purchases student art from the sale for its collection) and offered students the opportunity to sell their art. 

“We’ve really created a robust system to make it happen over the years,” Sawyers-Williams said. “That’s a big pride point, that NC State is the leader in how you can have a Student Art Sale that’s open to all of campus.” 

We’ve really created a robust system to make it happen.

When it first started in 2001, NC State’s Student Art Sale functioned as a private acquisition, in which a committee of students, staff and local artists reviewed and selected artworks to be purchased for the university’s collection and displayed in Talley Student Union across campus.

When she ran her first purchase in 2014, however, Sawyers-Williams and her team decided to open the sale to the public so that all student art could be seen and purchased. In 2015, the sale raised $3,000, and continued to grow for several years, raising $13,000 for student artists in 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic moved the sale online in 2020-22 and continued to generate great revenue for students, but, last year, it returned with both an in-person and online sale. 

With the new format, students have a direct interface with prospective art buyers, and are often paid via Venmo, CashApp or other money transfer services for their pieces. 

Abby Fulp displays her paintings at the 2023 Student Art Sale.
Abby Fulp displays her paintings at the 2023 Student Art Sale.

“Students are now receiving real-world experience in selling their artwork that they just would not have had before,” Sawyers-Williams said. “A bonus is that they’re learning how to sharpen their communication skills, they’re learning about self confidence and how to brand themselves, they’re taking creative risks.”

In addition to an opportunity to sell their art, students have a chance to win awards. Established by donor Roxanne Hicklin in 2017, the Visual Artist Award has three categories: 2D art, 3D art and photography or computer rendered art. 

The winners, selected by a local artist, each receive a $500 cash prize, and their art is purchased for Arts NC State’s collection in Talley. 

Grace Boros' painting, the winner of the 2023 2D Visual Artist Award.
Grace Boros’ painting, the winner of the 2023 2D Visual Artist Award.

Students often create relationships with their buyers at the sale, and can commission additional pieces for them in the future. Over the past two years, the sale has partnered with arts entrepreneurship classes at NC State, continuing to further students’ knowledge about selling their work. 

Another major pride point for the Student Art Sale is the opportunities it creates for every NC State student – it’s open to all majors, not just those with arts concentrations. 

“You have students who have taken art classes in high school and they’re really great artists,” Sawyers-Williams said. “But they want to be an engineering major, and what we offer is the chance for them to learn entrepreneurial skills and to still make art and still get paid for it. It just doesn’t have to be your full-time job. We’re going to teach you how to do this as your side hustle, or if you want it to be your full-time job, we can also help you figure out how to do that. One of our Visual Art Award winners from last year (CJ Murphy) is going on to pursue his MFA in fine arts at UNC next year.”