A long moment passed before Cord Cunningham worked himself up to turn over the postcard in the mail from the 30th annual Five-State Photography Exhibition at the Hays Arts Center.
“I just stood there and took a deep breath,” he said.
The McPherson College senior from Ottawa, Kan., knew the competition would be difficult for his four photographs, with hundreds of entrants - both amateur and professional - from across Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Colorado and Nebraska. Only about 150 would make it into the exhibition.
Slowly, he turned over the card to see a row of four X’s all in a line, marking:
Accepted… accepted… accepted… accepted…
Every single one of his entries made it into the show.
“I knew it was a hard show to get into,” he said. “So when I found out I was surprised.”
Not only that, but Cunningham received one of just 12 Juror’s Merit awards for his photograph - “Shed of Ruins.” He’s only the second McPherson College student to do so, the first being Casey Maxon ’13 in last year’s exhibition.
Ann Zerger, associate professor of art, taught Cunningham in her photography courses. As a highly competitive venue, she only encourages students who have developed a strong artistic voice to enter their work, she said.
“An artist is lucky to have any work accepted into the exhibition. To have all four pieces accepted is extremely unusual,” she said. “I am very proud of the work he has done in photography over the years and his hard work has paid off.”
Cunningham’s photograph “Shed of Ruins” shows a crumbling wooden shed with trees growing up through it and the sun bursting from between the branches.
After graduation in the spring, Cunningham plans to seek work with a graphic design firm in the Wichita area and continue his photography as a side venture in his spare time.