Monday, March 16, 2015

2015 Society of American Mosaic Artists Conference in Philadelphia

The 15th conference of the Society of American Mosaic Artists (SAMA) took place 3/12 - 3/15 in Philadelphia, PA. From my stalking efforts and reports by friends who went, it was another success. I wanted to get a friend who went to give me an exclusive blog post about her experience, but she was toooooo busy with activities at the conference (this is normal). After checking out this year's juried show on the SAMA site, I took a trip down memory lane.

The first conference was held in Orangeburg, SC on the campus of SC State University. I had just heard about SAMA and decided that this was something that I HAD to get in on. That conference was very small, with maybe 50 participants. It was a thrill to be with that many people with the same passion. There were presentations, opportunities to make connections, and a key note speaker. Isaiah Zagar, the Philadelphia artist who created Magic Gardens, was one of the speakers that year. (He was also at this year's show and a speaker at last year's.) I was proud that one of my own pieces was juried into the first-ever SAMA mosaic art show.

Close up of a portion of Magic Gardens, by Isaiah Zagar

I joined SAMA and continued to participate for the next several years. The next conference was in Miami. It was bigger, better, had more speakers, and a vendor market place was added. The 2004 conference was in Chicago, and again, it was bigger and workshops were added. The cost continued to rise, also. The next conference I attended was in Washington, D.C., which was the last time I could afford to go. The board now offered different levels of membership, too. I had a professional membership, which cost more than the registration fee for the first conference. A couple of years later, I let my membership lapse. I stayed close with people who continued with SAMA and the conferences, so I kept up in some ways.

For the first time in some years, I visited the SAMA website to see the awards for the juried show. I was mildly surprised to see that they no longer follow the old tried-and-true show award structure: Best in Show, 2nd place, 3rd place, honorable mention(s). SAMA has always tried new approaches to their conferences and shows, so it wasn't a big surprise. For a time, they offered separate awards for over-sized pieces, specifically for public art or installations. Best in Show is still top dog, but there is now an award for Technical Distinction, one for Contemporary Innovation, and two jurors awards. The winners are exemplary for their creativity and demonstration of skill. The number of selected pieces looked small to me (36 total), but the size of the venue could have been the reason for this. Competition is rigorous, which is indicative of the mission to elevate mosaic art. Overall, it was an excellent collection of mosaic work.

The Storm, by Nermine Elmasry of Zamalek, Egypt

 As SAMA continues to grow (current membership is more than 900), I hope to find my way back and after adding so many more skills from iMedia to my own knowledge base, I might be interested in joining one of their many boards. Who knows?

May all of your scores run true!


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