Aug. 17, 2023

Invariably, each year we have the opportunity and great joy to highlight another honor bestowed upon Charmaine Spencer. Last year FRONT International awarded her its Triennial fellowship, a three-year Art Futures Fellowship that provides unrestricted stipends of $25,000 and other support to four artists (details below).

This year's honor and recognition comes through two acquisitions purchased recently by the Putnam Collection, CWRU's outstanding sculpture collection headed by Director, Kathleen (Kathy) Barrie, and assisted by Benjamin Levy, Assistant Curator and PhD Candidate. In strokes both of synchronicity and serendipity, Kathy became aware of Charmaine's work through FRONT Triennial's exhibits last summer. Both pieces were displayed at the Akron Art Museum. After a visit to Charmaine's studio last fall, Kathy and Ben began the acquisition process that concluded this spring and the pieces purchased will be installed shortly in the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences on CWRU's campus.

Charmaine has distinguished herself winning major awards throughout her tenure at CIA, graduating in 2005, and moving on to produce public and private commissions, directing her own studio and holding workshops for adults and young students. Among her honors are the prestigious William McVey Award for Excellence in Sculpture, the Sculpture Center's 2008, Emerging Artist Award, a Creative Workforce Fellowship in 2009 and a 2010 Ingenuity Project Award. She was one of two students selected to finish posthumously, the last sculpture of the Sculpture Center’s founder, David E. Davis.

Other recognitions have included a County commissioned two-story signature sculpture, "Harmony", that greets visitors to the new Hilton Cleveland Downtown. It was installed for the Hilton's opening, coinciding with the RNC convention in 2016. In 2020 she received an Ohio Arts Council ADAP Grant and the 2018 CAN Triennial Prize. And this week she was notified of another OAC grant. Earlier last year she held a solo show as the Sculpture Center's "spot-lighted" artist , entitled, "From Seed to Root" and another solo show last fall at the Cleveland Botanical Garden

Exploring social conditioning and how it defines our concepts of value and our sense of place, and how it shapes our individual development are the consistent conceptual subjects that help define my work. The sculptures’ physical forms favor natural and utilitarian materials, which I shape through traditional and contemporary construction methods. This visually contrasts the valued or “prized” against the discarded, while distinguishing its place.

The totality of my work represents the struggles and growth as one reconstructs his or her self-worth and social place. The materials symbolize identity being stripped, cut or broken, then reformed, woven, bound or slotted back together. The work’s new “self” is formed, creating bold sculptures and installations that adapt, acculturating new environments and states of being.


Case Western Reserve University

The Putnam Collection was established in 1980 with a $1,000,000 gift from John and Mildred Andrews through the Putnam Fund. Since then it has underwritten and enabled the acquisition of a rich collection of sculpture displayed primarily outdoors on the CWRU campus. In 2007, under the direction and leadership of Kathleen Barrie, it has grown and transformed even further. An interest in Charmaine's work displayed in the Akron Art Museum during last year's FRONT Triennial attracted Kathy's attention and led to a studio visit and the eventual acquisitions. Ben Levy has provided outstanding support coordinating the details and follow-up for the team.

Display cabinets and stands to showcase the pieces are being prepared for installation shortly in CWRU's Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences (MSASS).