The world’s largest annual fine art prize is to be awarded to and by the Tyler School of Art.
A recent $3.7 million was donated to the school by Jack Wolgin, a Philadelphia real estate developer. The money is to be given out in a yearly $150,000 award. To be eligible for the prize participants must be nominated by a field professional.
Tyler Dean Therese Dolan said the grant has been a long time coming.
“This was negotiated many years ago through the Liacouras administration,” Dolan said.
Wolgin is a Penn State alum and University of Pennsylvania Law School graduate. He is also an arts patron and philanthropist.
It was Wolgin who chose Claes Oldenburg’s giant clothespin sculpture to be placed on Market Street across from City Hall.
“The man is so ahead of his time in his ability to perceive where art is going. This is the legacy he is leaving Tyler in his name,” Dolan said.
Wolgin is currently residing at his winter home in Florida but will have an active role with the contest, officially named the “Jack Wolgin International Competition in the Fine Arts at the Tyler School of Art at Temple University.” Wolgin decided the competition’s criteria, which is art that transcends traditional boundaries.
Dolan said credit is due in part to Tyler professors, Martha Madigan and Jeff Fuller. The two are close friends of Wolgin’s and encouraged him to choose Temple for this endowment.
“We have such a high ranked art program, and we have such a high reputation,” Dolan said. “People only give to success.”
Tyler’s reputation is climbing. According to the U.S. News and World Report’s list of best fine arts schools, Temple ranked 14th. Three years ago it was ranked 23rd.
Currently, the Rhode Island School of Design holds the No. 1 spot, followed by Yale University, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Dolan said she hopes the combination of a brand new building with the award endowment will further boost Tyler’s score.
“Elkin’s Park was held together with Scotch tape and bubblegum. I am very confident with a new building and this prize,” she said. “I want to be No. 1. I’m very hopeful to be in the top five next time.”
Tyler students received e-mails announcing the news.
“It would benefit Tyler because it would be the biggest award offered to an independent artist ever,” said Lucy Perluck, a junior jewelry and metals major.
“Making art is pretty expensive. I like to work in sterling silver and sometimes gold,” she said. “It would be cool to not have to worry about the amount of materials I can afford.”
Matthew Werth, a junior photography major, was surprised by the award, too.
“I don’t know what I’d do with it,” Werth said. “It’s more than schooling would be.”
The specifics of the award are still in the works. Dolan said a committee is being formed to come up with the terms of the contest.
It’s been determined that contest participants must be nominated.
Dolan said the contest “would probably bring forth literally millions of applicants” if it received open applications.
This is not only due to the enormity of the prize but also because nominees are not limited to Temple students. Any artist from any continent can be suggested.
The winner who was selected will have his or her own exhibit on Temple’s campus in May. Because of the late deadline, this year’s exhibit will be hosted in September.
The winning artist will be presented with his or her award by Wolgin during a ceremony.
Both the ceremony and the exhibit will be open to the public.
Dolan said she is proud of Tyler’s good fortune.
“This is a testament to Temple’s access to excellence.”
Michelle Provencher can be reached at email@example.com.