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Celebrating a Decade of Nurturing Artists on the Verge
GALLERY representation and museum exhibitions are elusive goals for many artists, regardless of their perseverance and talent. For the past decade, a program organized by the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum and the Ridgefield Guild of Artists has been trying to help. Radius: Professional Practice Series for Artists offers selected artists from Connecticut and southeastern New York an exhibition of their work as well as professional guidance and networking opportunities designed to start them on the path toward commercial success.

To mark the program's 10th anniversary, the Aldrich is presenting "Full Circle: Ten Years of Radius," an exhibition featuring the work of 14 of the 81 artists who have participated in the program.

Reflecting on the success of Radius, Harry L. Philbrick, the director of the Aldrich, said, "A key indicator is the careers of the artists who have been included in our exhibitions."

Christopher Mir, 38, a painter in Hamden, Conn., was a 2001 Radius participant. He is currently preparing work for a solo show opening this month at Galeria Senda in Barcelona, and for a show in March at the Chelsea gallery Rare, which represents him. This month, the Yale University Art Gallery will hang Mr. Mir's painting "Dear Traveler," which it purchased in 2004, beside a painting by Anselm Kiefer.

In New Haven, Joseph Smolinski, who was a Radius artist in 2004, is creating drawings for a solo exhibition at Swarm Gallery in Oakland, Calif., set to open in May. In September, Mr. Smolinski, 33, had his first New York City solo show at Mixed Greens, the gallery that represents him. His sculpture "Tree Turbine" is on display until April at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams, Mass.

Ben Weiner, a painter who grew up in Dobbs Ferry and now lives in Long Island City, was part of Radius in 2005. He will be exhibiting his work at the Pulse Contemporary Art Fair in Manhattan in March, through Mark Moore Gallery, in Santa Monica, Calif., which represents him. Mr. Weiner, 28, is currently working on paintings for his second solo show at Mark Moore, in April 2010, and recently signed with the newly opened Collette Blanchard Gallery in Manhattan.

"Full Circle: Ten Years of Radius," which includes works by Mr. Mir, Mr. Smolinski and Mr. Weiner, was curated by Regine Basha, an independent curator based in Brooklyn. The exhibition presents a range of work ¡ª paintings, works on paper, video, sculpture ¡ª reflecting the diversity of the Radius artists to date.

Radius is open to emerging artists (defined as those who do not have commercial gallery representation in a major market) of all ages and media who live in Connecticut and in Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess Counties in New York. "Radius's focus is on artists who are making good work and not receiving the recognition or exposure they desire or deserve," Mr. Philbrick said. "We drew a circle around the museum, hence the name Radius. We want to acknowledge that there are artists working in these suburban and rural areas who are just as serious as those working in New York City." Finalists, he said, have ranged in age from their early 20s to their mid-60s.

Submissions are evaluated by representatives from the Aldrich and the Guild; currently they are M¨®nica Ram¨ªrez-Montagut, the curator at the Aldrich, and Debra K. Browne, the Guild's exhibitions director. To be considered as a finalist, Ms. Browne said, applicants ¡°have to be absolutely ready for the next step."

"They have to have vision," she said. "They have to have a command of their medium and excellence of execution. They have to have a clear sense of why they are doing what they are doing, and their work has to be relevant to what's happening in the art world."

Ms. Browne said Radius's applicant pool has grown from approximately 10 in its first year to nearly 400, and the selection process has become increasingly difficult. "The submitted work continues to get better," she said.

After choosing between 10 and 12 finalists each year from 2005 to 2007, this year only 6 artists were selected.

In addition to an exhibition of their work at the Ridgefield Guild of Artists, Radius artists are given a one-on-one portfolio review, currently with Mr. Philbrick, Ms. Browne, Ms. Ram¨ªrez-Montagut or Richard Klein, the Aldrich's exhibitions director. They are also invited to attend the Professional Practice Forum at the Aldrich, where panels, composed of gallerists, curators and other art professionals, discuss strategies for succeeding in the art marketplace. Another component of Radius ¡ª For Artists Only! An Open House for Artists and Related Professionals ¡ª provides a networking opportunity at the Aldrich that includes informal portfolio reviews.