UA Little Rock grad wins $20,000 prize for photo

"Insight" by Trinity Kai

Trinity Kai of Little Rock, a 2017 graduate of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Art and Design Department, recently won the grand prize in the Kennedy Center’s 2017 VSA Emerging Young Artists Competition with a photograph that will be part of a national traveling exhibit.

Kai, who completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in May 2017, won $20,000 and an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. to attend three days of professional workshops and the exhibition opening.

The VSA is the Kennedy Center’s international organization on arts and disability.

“These young artists challenge us to see the world from a different point of view and through their personal lens,” said Betty Siegel, director of VSA and Accessibility of the Kennedy Center.

“Their work will spark debate and conversation and ultimately ignite understanding.”

Kai’s winning entry “Insight” is a fine art photograph printed in the historical photographic process of gum bichromate over palladium. The photograph was one in a series of photographs she created as part of her BFA thesis project, using a combination of traditional darkroom and historical photographic techniques.

The art will be part of a year-long traveling exhibition titled “Electrify” featuring the work of 15 young artists with disabilities, ages 21 to 25. The 15 artists were selected from a pool of hundreds of applicants by a jury of noted art professionals.

Kai was born with oculocutaneous albinism, a genetic condition that results in poor vision and oversensitivity to light. For her winning entry, Kai turned the camera on herself to create an image that speaks to spirituality, identity, and feelings of alienation.

“My time as a student in the Department of Art and Design at UA Little Rock was very influential and helped me become the artist I am today,” Kai said. “For me, (Professors) Joli Livaudais and Carey Roberson were and still are mentors to me. They motivate their students to push themselves and their art. They care about students finding their voice in their art. Those qualities and their guidance helped me grow as an artist and as an individual.”

She is currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas, and plans to teach art at the university level someday while working as a professional artist.

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