MTSU Welcomes Young Artists' National 'Journey' to Todd Gallery Exhibit

MTSU’s Todd Art Gallery will welcome works by 15 emerging young artists from across America this month in a special traveling exhibit, “The Journey,” that premiered at the Smithsonian Institution. 

The MTSU exhibition is scheduled Aug. 6-20, and a free public reception to honor the artists and their supporters is set from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 19, in Room 224 of Todd Hall. 

Challenged by VSA, the international organization on arts and disability, to create works exploring a journey, hundreds of gifted artists with disabilities participated in the 2014 VSA Emerging Young Artists Competition. 

The 15 winners received a total of $60,000 in cash awards. Their work is part of a national tour of museums and galleries underway across the country. 

Gianna Paniagua of Miami, Florida, won the $20,000 grand prize for “Never Stopping,” a hand-cut paper screen print inspired by her journey as a heart-transplant recipient.

Timothy Lee, an artist working in Brooklyn, New York, won the $10,000 first prize for “Gookeyes,” a series of watercolors on crumpled paper that captures his cultural isolation as a Korean-American with panic and anxiety disorders.

Mary Grace Tinsley of Arlington, Massachusetts, took the $6,000 second prize for “The Disorient,” a digital print that visually addresses her dyslexia.

The winners were chosen for their “sometimes startling and often enlightening interpretations” of the theme, competition organizers said.

The exhibit will be on display during the Todd Gallery’s regular hours; it’s open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and is closed on weekends and state and university holidays. 

In addition to supporting this national VSA exhibit, MTSU also is a longtime participant in and organizer of VSA events in Tennessee, thanks to MTSU instructor Lori Kissinger, the VSA Tennessee executive director, and her organizational communication students.

VSA Tennessee recently concluded its "40 Days Around the World" Digital Arts Festival, an online celebration of international arts exchanges involving artists with disabilities in 60 countries and 37 states. 

The crown jewel of that project, available online at, was a handcrafted quilt, comprising 81 specially designed squares from artists around the world and sewn together at MTSU with the aid of hardworking student volunteers and local artists.

VSA officials, including Kissinger, presented the quilt to Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith July 24 at the U.S. Capitol. It had been on display at the State Department headquarters in Washington, D.C., since May and has now become a permanent part of the U.S. Department of State’s Arts in Embassies traveling worldwide exhibit.

Smith founded VSA, then known as Very Special Arts, in 1974. The organization merged with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 2011 to expand its services. 

Like her sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s founding of the Special Olympics, Smith was inspired to encourage and promote the skills and talents of people with disabilities because of their eldest sister, Rosemary Kennedy.

For more information about MTSU’s Todd Art Gallery, including parking and directions, contact gallery director Eric Snyder at 615-898-5653 or or visit You also can find a campus parking map at

MTSU VSA quilt event

For more information about VSA Tennessee, visit or contact Kissinger at or 615-210-8819.