December 18, 2006

SIUC art students vie for coveted Niche award

by Sun Min

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Three talented artists at Southern Illinois University Carbondale's School of Art and Design are in the running to win one of the nation's most prestigious art competitions.

Benjamin O. Cowden of Seattle, Wash. and Mitchel T. Martin of Freeport (40 N. Wise Ave.), both graduate students in metals, along with Kyoung Hwa Oh of South Korea, a graduate student in ceramics, are all finalists for the 2007 Niche student awards.

Niche magazine, an exclusive trade publication for North American retailers of American craft, sponsors the annual competition. Administrators will announce the winners in February during an awards ceremony at the Philadelphia Buyers Market of American Craft, the nation's largest wholesale craft event. The SIUC students plan to attend the conference.

"The works of these three graduate students from ceramics, metals and sculpture being recognized as finalists for the Niche award is but another indication of the quality of the graduate programs in the School of Art and Design and the University," said Harris Deller, director of the School of Art and Design.

Judges selected just a handful of finalists among more than 900 entries nationwide. Oh stood out in the category of ceramics-function for her work titled "Movement of Nature 24." Martin's "Energy Pin #2" piece made a distinct impression in the fine jewelry category and Benjamin Cowden's "A Series of Passionate but Arbitrary Decisions" sculpture captured a finalist spot in the metal: non-wearable category.

Published by the Baltimore-based Rosen Group, Niche magazine began the student awards program in 1996 to honor the next generation of craft makers and to complement its professional awards competition that began several years earlier. To find out more about the Niche awards, visit

Promoting excellence in graduate academics is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.