A few years ago, Pang-Chieh Hsu, gallery director and professor of art, painting and drawing at Armstrong Atlantic State University, had a grand vision.

He wanted to bring together a diverse set of voices and perspectives from across the country and give them a forum to showcase their artwork in a group setting to challenge and excite his students, the university and the city of Savannah as a whole.

"I think that a lot of artists, when they get out of school, they're looking for an exhibition opportunity," he said. "And it's harder than anyone thinks, getting into a show. So basically, we wanted to create a show for young contemporary artists to share with the Armstrong community and with students. This is the third year of this competition and we've been preparing for it for years."

The work showcased in this year's 2-D National Competition Exhibition runs the gamut from traditional painting and photography to urban-influenced graphic design, printmaking and beyond - all from artists at various stages of their careers from around the U.S.

The art world can be a fickle beast, and a show like this lends a solid framework of support for many rising stars who may not yet have been able to achieve a solid foothold in the field. It also exemplifies the diversity of work being done in a contemporary milieu in a variety of disciplines by an assortment of emerging talents, from beginning and mid-level to professional artists.

"My goal was to try to reach out to as many artists as I can," Hsu said. "And from my personal point of view, the quality is also developing from past shows."

Indeed, the quality of work displayed in this exhibition represents a breadth of intent and technique not always seen in shows like this. And according to Armstrong marketing director Mario Incorvaia, these competitions also attract an audience that extends beyond the boundaries of the university's halls.

"We have between 10 and 12 exhibits annually, and many of them are student focused," Incorvaia said. "We're a university; that's what we do. But when Pang created this national show, it really gave us an anchor exhibition where we can attract attention outside the college."

The juror for this year's competition was Courtney McNeil, a fine arts curator for Telfair Museums, and as she notes in her statement for the exhibition, she faced quite a challenge choosing the finalists from the exceptional pool of talent who submitted their work. From the strikingly haunting images of first- and second-place winners Chris Valle and Steven Skowron, respectively, to the highly skilled negative image rendering from cut paper of third-place winner, Savannah's Rachel Greneker, and along down the line, each and every work stands on its own singular merit and provides the viewer something to contemplate and savor.

The show runs through Jan. 28, and the reception Jan. 24, where at least a few artists will be in attendance, offers a chance to meet and talk with some of these creators.