Each year the Princeton Area Community Foundation evaluates student artist applications for the annual Thomas George Artists Fund Award.  Thomas George was an internationally recognized artist whose work is included in the permanent collections of major museums, universities, corporations and private collections worldwide. He counted himself fortunate for having received financial support early on to study and practice his art. While the monetary assistance he received through the G.I. Bill and from his family was modest in size, it was immense in affect, providing him with the financial freedom he needed to explore and cultivate an art career. In coordination with the Princeton Area Community Foundation, Mr. George established this award to help provide others with the same opportunities he had as an emerging artist.  Each year the Community Foundation awards $5,000 to a graduating artist.

We are thrilled to have a growing number of excellent student applicants for the Thomas George Artists Fund Award this year. With the help of John George, Ryan Lilienthal and Nelida Valentin, we narrowed the cohort of student artist applicants to two outstanding finalists – Cara Giddens, from The College of New Jersey (TCNJ); and Regina Ritter from Mercer County Community College.

While studying fine art at TCNJ, Cara Giddens has built an impressive portfolio of tactile and digital art, include two- and three-dimensional compositions, and mixed media installations.  Her approach and thinking about visual expression makes meaningful use of state-of-the-art technology, while exploring personal themes.  As Giddens explains, “[m]y art is made in order to invoke a sense of uncanny and discomfort within the viewer, simultaneously creating myths that are relevant to my personal experience.” In addition to the myths relevant to Giddens’s personal experience, her artwork explores archetypical and meaningful themes that we all grapple with in contemporary life.

Regina Ritter, who graduated with dual degrees this spring in Advertising/Graphic Design and Illustration from Mercer County Community College, incorporates her extraordinary personal narrative into her complex and varied paintings and mixed media projects.  Ritter points out that, “[a]s a visually-impaired artist, creating dimensional art is a necessary and interesting part of my process. My works are expressions of the beauty and wonder in nature and architecture as I see it ”  In contrast to the look-but-don’t-touch refrain common to the visual art experience, Ritter invites us to touch her painting and compositions.  The touch invitation is more than merely a clever way to distinguish her work.  Not only do her compositions have texture, but they, in fact, are visually dynamic, such as her oil and acrylic paintings that successfully build on layers of transparency and opacity that create interest and emotion.

Cara Giddens was awarded the Thomas George Artists Fund Award, but we would like to congratulation both of these talented artists!