NORTH CANTON  Residents in North Canton have come to expect that April showers bring May flowers but they also know that the springtime month is celebrated with the annual May Show at the Little Art Gallery.

The Little Art Gallery in North Canton opened the annual judged show with a private reception on April 30 and the exhibit opened for viewing on May 1 and is open through the end of the month. Gallery Curator Elizabeth Blakemore said 130 pieces were submitted this year from 65 Stark County artists.

"The artists find out at the opening reception if their piece placed for an award," Blakemore said. "Our judges this year took extra time to determine the first and second place winners because of the quality of work entered this year. We have about 40 pieces on exhibit for the May show including the Best of Show piece."

The Best in Show went to Erin T. Mulligan for her piece titled, "The Feeding." Mulligan teaches art and is the curator for the Cyrus Custom Framing and Art Gallery on Cleveland Avenue in Canton. She’s been painting for 10 years.

"I’m surprised and thrilled to have a piece selected as "Best of Show" for this show because the competition is always so strong," Mulligan said.

She said she likes to make her paintings represent more than a mood. Instead, she likes to tell a story or multiple stories in her pieces.

"This piece started out as a commission piece. The person wanted something that was a bit dark. She never picked the painting up so I decided to enter it this year," Mulligan said.

The piece shows a three-headed skeleton feeding ravens that are trapped. Mulligan said the three-headed skeleton represents the different aspects of one’s personality, not all bad and not all good. She said the skeleton trapped the ravens but is also feeding them.

Judges at this year’s show were Meghan Olis and Rachel Davis. Olis has worked for Cleveland artist and industrial designer Viktor Schreckengost. She has helped organize and relocate the Akron Art Museum’s collection. She’s also taught art a Kent State University and currently is an exhibition specialist for the Cleveland Museum of Art.

"When looking closely at each piece, I focused primarily on the artist’s use of medium, technical skill, creativity, and overall composition. I do not allow the subject matter to sway me, otherwise I would end up with a show of cute animals and not one that represents the skill level and hard work of the artists. Thank you to the Little Art Gallery for this opportunity and for your commitment to local art," wrote Olis in a published statement.

Davis has owned and operated the Rachel Davis Arts Auctioneers and Appraisers since 1987. She specializes in the sale of American and European 19th and 20th century paintings, prints and sculptures.

"I like to first walk through and see which pieces catch my eye. This is one of the most important criteria for me: Am I drawn into the work? Does it hold my eye? Next step is to understand why. First, does it convey an original idea, thought or emotion that goes beyond the handling of the materials? Does the artist convey a sense of feeling and care about his/her work? How well does his/her composition and design translate. Secondly, I view the technical skill and how well the artist has mastered his/her chosen medium with its inherent limitations and strength. The medium should not be an end to itself, but does the artist take this medium into new directions and test its limits? Lastly, I like to present a show that shows diversity in both ideas and techniques," Davis wrote in a published statement.