What would you do with $10,000? That's a question 29 artists are asking themselves after being named finalists in the Portland Art Museum's Contemporary Northwest Art Awards. This will be the second go-round for the awards, introduced in 2007 by former PAM curator Jennifer Gately as an alternative to the longstanding Oregon Biennial. This year's finalists, chosen by Gately's successor, Bonnie Laing-Malcolmson, were whittled down from a field of 241 nominees and will be further distilled into five to seven winners. Those winners will be featured in a June exhibition, and one artist will be singled out for the $10,000 Arlene Schnitzer Prize. Of the finalists, 16 are from Oregon, eight from Washington, and two apiece from Montana and Idaho.

Naturally, many of the finalists are daydreaming about how they would spend the cash. Jenene Nagy, known for her ambitious sculptural installations, would love to take "a long trip for two someplace warm and sexy like Bora Bora," although she concedes that if she did win the money, she'd probably just pay off debt and take business trips to promote her art career. Arnold Kemp, whose paintings on paper made a big splash last year at PDX Contemporary, would like to buy some property, see the Venice Biennale this summer, or help out a fellow struggling artist. Multi-talented mixed-media artist Sean Healy would hire an assistant for his artwork or use the money to pay for his wedding next year. Jaq Chartier, whose pseudoscientific stain-based paintings are shown at Elizabeth Leach, would love to travel to Berlin, London or Japan, "but more likely I'd just hoard it like a miser to buy more time in the studio." Narrative photographer Holly Andres would buy new photography gear and travel across the country with friends, while photorealist painter Sherrie Wolf would make a pilgrimage to see the Prado Museum in Madrid, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, and others across Europe. Anna Fidler, known for her trippy mixed-media collages, wants to sock the money away into a college fund for the baby she's expecting in March. And while abstract painter G. Lewis Clevenger yearns to visit Argentina and Brazil, he says that "realistically, my conservative side tells me to put enough aside to cover studio expenses for a year and supplement my health insurance."

Whatever their pipe dreams and practical realities, we wish the finalists good luck and congratulate Laing-Malcolmson on her diverse and thoughtful selection. See this space for more information about the CNWAA as the summer grows nigh.

Contemporary Northwest Art Award 2011 finalists: Holly Andres, Chris Antemann, John Buck, Jaq Chartier, Glenn L. Clevenger, James Coupe, Tannaz Farsi, Anna Fidler, Justin Gibbons, Charles Gill, John Grade, Robert Hanson, Sean Healy, Jerry Iverson, Arnold Kemp, Scott Kolbo, Cynthia Lahti, Isaac Layman, Lead Pencil Studio (Annie Han and Daniel Mihalyo), Susie Lee, Megan Murphy, Jenene Nagy, Ryan Pierce, Michelle Ross, Heidi Schwegler, Susan Seubert, Eric Stotik and Sherrie Wolf.