VMFA fellowships benefit array of VCU artists

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The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has awarded its annual fellowships for the year and, once again, many of this year’s recipients have ties to Virginia Commonwealth University.

Fourteen of the 2014 fellows are either former or current students from the VCU School of the Arts, representing several disciplines. The VMFA fellowship program, founded in 1940, supports artists across the state. Fellowship applicants come from a variety of backgrounds, including students, professionals and others. All applicants and their submissions are anonymized and jurors on the selection committee make their choices based solely on artistic merit of the submission.

In its efforts to support Virginia artists, the VMFA has awarded more than $5 million in fellowships to more than 1,200 Virginians over its 74-year history. Elizabeth Cruickshanks, the fellowship program coordinator since 2009, has enjoyed watching the works and careers of fellows over the years.

“I am always amazed each year, this year included, at the incredible talent we have in Virginia,” she said.

The fellowship will serve different purposes for different artists. For some, it will provide additional support to help an already established career. For others, it will be an aid to building on an emerging career.  In addition to a monetary award, fellowship recipients receive the recognition of being part of an esteemed group of artists, which has included the likes of the renowned artist Cy Twombly and the Emmy Award-winning television producer and writer Vince Gilligan.

“This fellowship is really great confirmation that I am moving in the right direction and that I have made progress, which is a big deal because being in such a rigorous department like sculpture can cause you to feel stuck in what you are doing sometimes,” said Danya Smith, an undergraduate fellowship recipient. Smith plans on using her award to purchase better materials for her sculptures.

The VMFA puts no stipulations on how a recipient must spend their award money – it can be used in whatever way best benefits the recipient’s work or studies.  However, all recipients must remain legal residents of Virginia for the entire fellowship period and student recipients must be enrolled full-time in their degree-seeking programs for the academic year during their fellowship.

As a craft and material studies major, Michelle Selwyn is able to create meaning through metals and textiles. For her, earning a fellowship means the opportunity to learn more about her field from other creative minds.

“My professors have taught me amazing things and have really shaped the way I am looking at the art world right now. This fellowship is going to allow me to learn so much more,” she said.

Sb Fuller submitted examples of public fountains and a series of mosquito hatcheries built from the James River's driftwood to earn a fellowship. Looking forward to working as a co-director of a local art space and future projects, Fuller saw the recognition as “an absolute honor.”

Here is the full list of the 2014 Virginia Museum of Fine Arts fellowship winners from the VCU arts program:

Professional Fellowships
-- Ryan Crowley, sculpture – M.F.A.,
sculpture and extended media, and assistant professor of sculpture
-- John Dombroski, new/emerging media – B.F.A. kinetic imaging, and adjunct faculty in kinetic imaging
-- Michael Lease, photography – M.F.A., photography and film, and head of exhibitions for the
VCU Anderson Gallery
-- Molly McFadden, film/video – adviser/coordinator, art education
-- Paul Norton, film/video – B.A., cinema
-- Mark Strandquist, new/emerging media – B.F.A., photography and film

Graduate Fellowships
-- Sb Fuller, sculpture – M.F.A., sculpture and extended media
-- Corey Piper, art history – M.F.A., art history
-- Nils Westergard, painting – B.F.A., photography and film

Undergraduate Fellowships
-- Remy-Katherine Ciuba, mixed media – B.F.A., sculpture and extended media
-- Carson Jones, drawing – B.F.A., communication arts  
-- Catherine Samples, drawing – B.F.A., communication arts
-- Michelle Selwyn, crafts – B.F.A., craft and material studies
-- Danya Smith, sculpture – B.F.A., sculpture and extended media

 The 2015 Fellowship application will be online this summer at the VMFA website (www.VMFA.museum/Fellowships) and the application deadline is Nov. 7, 2014.


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