Benny Melton, a Master of Fine Arts student at the University of Mississippi, received top honors at the Second Annual Cedars Juried Art Exhibition last month in Jackson.
Melton, who lives in Oxford, has had recent success after winning the juried Double Decker Arts Festival and the People’s Choice award that went along with it. He really wanted to challenge himself, so he set his sights on the Cedars show. He entered three pieces, and two were accepted.
“I had absolutely no thoughts on winning, because I had already accomplished my goal of getting in the show,” Melton said.
With no expectations of winning, Melton was taking pictures of other entries when his wife, Jennifer, asked him to put him camera down while they were announcing the winners. When he asked her why, she said, “Sshhh, you might win something.”
Third place was announced, then second and finally, Melton’s name was called for first place. Time seemed to stand still before he said, “You have got to be kidding me!”
Melton said he believes his recent success validates the academic model established by the faculty of the Department of Art.
“The training we receive in the art department here at Ole Miss pushes professionalism of artists in three areas: presentation, craftsmanship and research,” he said.
The staff is diversified in all disciplines and the professors and adjunct instructors are all capable artists in their own disciplines, which gives students a great opportunity to learn, Melton said. And each student’s work is evaluated on a professional level before it leaves the classroom.
“If you are looking to be coddled, you are coming to the wrong place,” Melton said, “I don’t mean that to sound like tough love, but the art market and job market are very competitive these days.”