The UCSC Arts Division & Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery present 'Material Matters'

An exhibition from top art students on the intersection of art and material

Once a year the art department hands out its most prestigious award, the William Hyde Irwin and Susan Benteen Irwin Scholarship. Every year twelve students receive this merit scholarship to help them create work that will be presented in the Mary Porter Sesnon Gallery. This year the 38th annual Irwan Exhibition runs from May 29 through June 15.

This scholarship was created by Susan Benteen Irwin in 1986 shortly after the death of her husband. Both had worked as artists, and Susan credits the help of scholarships for helping her and her husband's careers flourish. Her original check was for $10,000 and now the Irwin scholarship fund is worth more than $1M. There are usually 12 students selected, give or take a few, and each of them receives $2,500.

Scholars are hand selected by faculty based on merit. Some of the considerations that go into choosing candidates are being active in class, attending office hours, and working closely with faculty. This year’s scholars include Annalie Taylor, Ariel Dizon Barish, Kylan Erving, Carter Garcia-Kimura, Fox Wong, Carolee Hagey, Lily Loomis, Jorge L. Garcia, Lily Nash, Mars Buell, and Bailey Rios.

This year’s exhibition theme is Material Matters, which explores the ways in which material and medium play a role in the meaning behind artwork. The scholars have selected, found, and refurbished materials to explore issues including identity, diversity, and climate change.

“I love to see the gallery transformed,”says Valeria Miranda, the director of the Sesnon Gallery. “It is  shifting away from a white box by painting walls, installing the artwork, and changing how the light shines on each different work.” Many (if not all of these students) have only worked on creating art and not seeing the background process. This opportunity gives the scholars a chance to see another side of the artworld. “There is an element of theater in how you create a space to best showcase the artwork,” says Miranda. 

A large part of Miranda’s job is to help the Irwin scholars understand the process of putting together an exhibition. She has met with all of them to discuss how they want their artwork shown and helped them write their artist’s bios.

This event is a chance for the campus community and the public to see the best of UC Santa Cruz. “It’s a great opportunity for the UC Santa Cruz community and the community at large to see who the next generation of artists are,” says Miranda. “That's a really special thing that I've always treasured throughout my career, is to see the work of undergrad and graduate art students, because they are truly the next generation of artists.”

Exhibition Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 12-5 p.m.
Wednesdays, 12-8 p.m.

Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery at Porter College, UC Santa Cruz
Free and open to the public.


About the Irwin Scholarship

The William Hyde Irwin and Susan Benteen Irwin Scholarship is our most prestigious student scholarship.  At the end of Fall quarter, thirty students are nominated by full time faculty to submit work for competition. Art students, make sure that you are on their radar and that the faculty know who you are by being active in class, attending office hours and working closely with faculty on your projects. If you are interested in being considered do not hesitate to set up an appointment with a ladder rank faculty member to ask them specifically what you can do to be considered as an applicant. Ladder faculty meet as a group at the beginning of Winter quarter to select the year's Irwin Scholarship recipients. Exceptional students from each area are invited to apply in Winter.  Selection is based on the excellence of the nominees' creative work. Approximately twelve students receive $2,500 and a highly-publicized group show in the Mary Porter Sesnon Gallery during Spring quarter.

About the Mary Porter Sesnon Gallery

The Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery encourages interdisciplinary discourse through the lens of the arts. The gallery is located at Porter College above the koi pond at UC Santa Cruz, and is wheelchair accessible. Admission is free and metered parking is available at Porter College.  Gallery hours: Tuesday–Saturday, 12–5:00 p.m. and Wednesday, 12–8:00 p.m. The gallery is a short walk from the bus stop at Porter College. Group tours are available by appointment at 831-459-3606, or via email Please visit our website for more information: