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The $50,000 Hudgens Prize should be making bigger art-world ripples

The prestigious cash prize could validate any of the nominated artists, so why aren't people more excited?

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If you're active in the intown Atlanta art scene, there's a good chance you've never heard of the Hudgens Center for the Arts. And even if you have, odds are you've never been there.

The Hudgens Center is known to Duluth residents as part of the sprawling Gwinnett Center, a multipurpose complex running along an otherwise undistinguished stretch of suburban asphalt 12 miles outside I-285. It's also home to the newly established Hudgens Prize. Announced last winter as both an art prize and a "juried show," the winner-take-all prize includes $50,000 in cash provided anonymously by a Duluth-based family foundation for a single Georgia artist. The prize jury boasts a trio of bona fide national and international art world players: Sylvie Fortin, executive director of Art Papers; Eungie Joo, director of education and public programs at New York's New Museum; and David Kiehl, curator of prints at the Whitney Museum of American Art, also in New York.

After nine months and almost 400 artist entries, the Hudgens announced its five finalists: Ruth Dusseault, Hope Hilton, Gyun Hur, Scott Ingram and Jiha Moon. All five are familiar names to Atlanta art-world cognoscenti. The final winner will be announced Nov. 30.

The strange thing is what happened immediately following the announcement of the finalists. Basically nothing. The chattering classes of the art world, always eager to express an opinion about who should've gotten what, mostly fell silent. The press produced a trickle; the blogosphere, crickets. Even social networkers didn't move the needle, preferring to report on making a ham sandwich or someone's cat doing something cute.