In summer 2015, The Hearst Foundations granted $80,000 toward current-use scholarships for incoming undergraduate minority students in the LSU College of Art & Design.
The Hearst Foundations are national philanthropic resources for organizations working in the fields of culture, education, health, and social services. The foundations identify and fund outstanding nonprofits to ensure that people of all backgrounds in the United States have the opportunity to build healthy, productive, and inspiring lives. Since 1945, the foundations have made over 20,000 grants totaling more than $1 billion.
“We were inspired by the talent and the excellence of the LSU College of Art & Design and the belief that providing scholarships will help people realize their dreams and their ambitions,” commented Mason Granger, director of grants at The Hearst Foundations.
The $80,000 grant has been divided equally among the schools of architecture, art, interior design, and landscape architecture for the recruitment and retention of underrepresented groups in art and design, providing scholarships to 20 LSU College of Art & Design students over the next five years. Each Hearst scholarship recipient will receive $4,000—$2,000 a year during their first and second years of study. The scholarships may be used for tuition, supplies, living expenses—whatever the students need to succeed in their studies at LSU.
Every major professional organization in art and design has a committee, council, commitment, or board of some kind intended to increase diversity and inclusion and attract and encourage underrepresented groups through mentorships and role models. But why is diversity in design important?
The article, “Diversity & Inclusion in Design: Why Do They Matter,” written by Antoinette Carroll, chair of AIGA’s National Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, states that “Diversity in design means diversity of experience, perspective and creativity—otherwise known as diversity of thought—and these can be shaped by multiple factors including race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual identity, ability/disability and location, among others. The diversity problem in design is not only in the numbers, but also in the lack of diverse role models, opportunities, and public awareness—which leads to apathy, insensitivity and even outright discrimination.”
Increasing diversity in the art and design professions starts by increasing diversity in art and design education. And increasing diversity in education means identifying and addressing the obstacles and challenges underrepresented groups face in pursuing an education in art and design, most notably, the financial burdens beyond the cost of tuition and the workload and long studio hours that mean students with jobs often struggle to keep up. The Hearst scholarship provides the recipients with some relief from these obstacles while reinforcing that diversity matters at LSU and in these professions.
As the college’s first donation from The Hearst Foundations and as the first scholarship available for incoming freshmen, the $80,000 grant is a milestone for the College of Art & Design’s mission to educate a diverse student population. Diversity—strengthening the intellectual environment by broadening the cultural diversity of the college to promote understanding others—is also one of the four main goals in the college’s strategic plan.
“We are thrilled to be able to encourage underrepresented students to pursue careers in the design professions through the scholarships now available to them,” said LSU College of Art & Design Dean Alkis Tsolakis. “Because of The Hearst Foundations, our students will have once-in-a-lifetime experiences at LSU.”
Malachi Pursley—Bachelor of Architecture
Malachi Pursley wanted to be a doctor until his junior year at Baton Rouge High School when he realized he didn’t want to abandon his passion for art and design. After shadowing an architect—a friend of his mother’s—he came to see architecture as a nice balance between his background in science and math and his creative interests.
“I love the way architects are able to be freely creative,” Malachi said.
He is already experiencing that creative freedom as a first year student in the Bachelor of Architecture program at LSU. “The foundation classes are opening my eyes to the design process and what we should be looking at and how differently architects view the world. The work is always challenging, which I enjoy,” he said while laughing about drawing lines for the first two weeks in the foundation design studio. (Malachi sees lines everywhere now, one of the points of the exercise.)
He realizes that an architecture degree is a lot of work. “People give you a consoling look when you say you’re majoring in architecture,” he explained. “It’s a time commitment, for sure.”
On top of taking 16 credit hours (of which he actually spends 22 hours in class; studio courses require 12 hours of in-class time but only count for 6 credit hours), Malachi spends at least four hours a day working in the studio.
“The Hearst scholarship is a big help as I don’t have time to have a job while pursuing this degree. It also helps with the cost of supplies. I don’t have to rely as much on money from my parents, and I can focus more on the project versus how to fund the project,” he said.
Malachi was awarded The Hearst Foundations scholarship for his outstanding ACT score and high school GPA. He also received a Stamps Scholars Award from LSU. This elite award offers full cost of attendance for four years, as well as an unprecedented level of funding for enrichment experiences. The Stamps scholarship allows Malachi to live on campus. “Otherwise, I’d be living at home. Being on campus is so much easier, especially with the long studio hours and not having to worry about the commute.”
Malachi is proud of what he’s made in studio so far, especially his blind contours and print blocks. “I made the print blocks and did the prints with the blocks I made. It was really satisfying to be able to say, ‘hey, I made that from start to finish.’”
Kamea Comeaux—Bachelor of Fine Arts
Art has been a part of Kamea Comeaux’s life since childhood.
“I grew up with it,” said Kamea. “My uncle is an artist. I’ve seen it all my life. It’s my passion. I didn’t have a doubt about my major; I just went for it.”
Kamea’s uncle, who was also an NBA player, mother, and grandmother all encouraged her artistic proclivities. “My mother really pushed me to pursue art, and my grandmother, who lives in New York—she’s originally from Canada and is really spunky—she would send me news about artists and exhibitions. She is very supportive of my ventures. I’m so grateful to have family like that.”
Kamea was born in Houston, Texas, but her family has roots in Louisiana. They lived in Virginia while her father completed medical school at Howard University and six years ago moved to Louisiana where he completed his residency. As well as the influence of her family, Kamea attributed her interest and talents in art to her early exposure to art museums, such as the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. “Seeing the works of such successful artists really influenced my decision to major in studio art,” said Kamea. “It reminds me that I can do this when so many people don’t understand or think I’m crazy.”
She also fondly recalled her sophomore fine arts teacher at Sulphur High School, Mr. Danos, as another major influence in her life. “He was tough and hard on me, but he saw and acknowledged my strengths as an artist,” Kamea remembered. “He taught me a lot and pushed me to take more advanced art courses. I grew as an artist because of him.”
Kamea wants to be a painter and is considering pursuing art therapy. “Art therapy is an important field and a great way to have a career and practice art at the same time.”
She is completely enmeshed in art this semester. “All my classes are strictly art,” she laughed. “No math or English composition this semester, although I know I’ll have to get to that. Right now it’s two- and three-dimensional composition, art history, and, my favorite, painting and drawing.”
Kamea’s favorite artist is surrealist Salvador Dali, and she attributes her creative bravery to her love of Frieda Kalho. She also idolizes George Rodrigue, painter of Blue Dog. “He is the epitome of Louisiana to me. I love this state because of the food, culture, music, and all that—but for me, it’s the art here. I want to create art that’s native.”
As a well-rounded, hardworking student ensured for success, Kamea was selected for The Hearst Foundations scholarship. “The scholarship takes a lot of stress off financially,” she said, “and I am more motivated with this acknowledgment.” Kamea said she searched everywhere for art scholarships. “There just aren’t that many scholarships out there for studio art majors. It really put me in the dumps not being able to find anything, and then this scholarship found me.
“I’ll do very well with this scholarship,” added Kamea. “And it will create more opportunities for people like me to pursue art.”
Amanda Campos—Bachelor of Interior Design
Amanda Campos originally had her heart set on becoming a neurologist and majoring in biology. At Lafayette High School, she enrolled in the Health Academy and took four years of health classes before abruptly changing her major to interior design in March of her senior year.
“I’ve always been artsy, and I watch a lot of HGTV,” said Amanda. “I’m really interested in interior design and enjoy designing spaces, so I decided to go for it, and—so far—I love it!”
Amanda said she finds her teacher, Professional in Residence Matthew Edmonds, inspiring. “He talks about how much he loves going to work every day and how it doesn’t feel like a job to him. I hope interior design is like that for me. I can see myself loving it forever. I have friends majoring in biology, and they just don’t seem to love it.”
In her first semester at LSU, Amanda is already learning how to draft floor plans in Edmonds’ studio. “It’s a lot harder than it looks. Everything has to be perfect. They don’t portray this level of detail on HGTV,” she laughed. “I didn’t realize how important craftsmanship is in this profession. It’s tedious work that takes hours, and then it still isn’t perfect. But it’s definitely worth it to see the end result.”
One interior design studio project takes Amanda at least four hours to complete, “and we have two a week!” she added. On top of art classes she’s ta king two-dimensional design, which means she’s spending 13–24 hours a week completing studio projects. Even though it will be more work, she is considering minoring in art.
The Hearst Foundations scholarship is a big help to Amanda’s family. “I have three siblings, including an older sister in college, a younger sister entering high school, and a younger brother with Down syndrome. My parents do okay and, thankfully, my grandmother helps a lot, but tuition and medical bills add up. The scholarship is something I accomplished that will help them, and I’m so proud to be able to do so.”
Scott Self—Bachelor of Landscape Architecture
Scott Self has enjoyed being outdoors since he was a young boy searching for arrowheads and pottery artifacts in DeRidder, Louisiana, with his grandfather, a member of the Four Winds Tribe. Descendants of American Indians who migrated to and settled in the western portion of Louisiana in the mid-1700s through the mid-1800s, the tribe is a blend of Cherokee and Choctaw heritage.
Scott grew up in Lafayette, Louisiana, where he spent many summers operating his own lawn care business in order to save money for college. When it came time to consider his major, Scott knew he’d never be happy sitting behind a computer all day.
“That would drive me nuts,” he said, with all seriousness. “I enjoy working with my hands and seeing a finished product—the result of my work.”
A family friend introduced Scott to landscape architecture and encouraged him to apply to the Robert Reich School. The first year of the program has “been a wake-up call,” Scott laughed. “Especially the combined architecture and landscape architecture foundations studio. I’ve learned a lot about time management.”
Scott and Malachi Pursley, the first LSU School of Architecture Hearst scholarship recipient, are in the foundation design studio together. The architecture and landscape architecture curricula begin with the same design foundation, so the first-year interdisciplinary studio makes sense. Students learn together while getting to know each other.
Scott’s favorite part of the program so far is the studio atmosphere. “I enjoy the social aspect of how we work and learn in studio—the peer reviews, the critiques. We’re always moving around, consulting each other, but we’re still doing the work.”
Scott said The Hearst Foundations scholarship helps him purchase books and studio supplies, expenses that add up quickly. “I was looking for a job to help pay for everything, and Director Mark Boyer suggested the Hearst scholarship,” Scott recalled. “The extra funds allow me to not have to work during the semester—and that really helps with my workload.”
After graduation, Scott is interested in designing golf courses and recreational spaces around the Gulf Coast—whatever it takes to stay outdoors.
The LSU College of Art & Design has measures in place to track the success of the Hearst scholarship recipients according to three main goals outlined in the initial grant proposal. Associate Dean of Academics Tom Sofranko and the undergraduate coordinators of each discipline will guide and advise the cohort of scholarship recipients to ensure they go from orientation to graduation to successful careers in their respective professions.
By communicating the availability of minority scholarships in each discipline directly with high school counselors, the college’s recruiters will be able to encourage applications from underrepresented groups in the art and design professions. College counselors, faculty, and administrators can reach out directly to the student applicants, not only in an effort to help select the most deserving scholarship recipients but also to help alleviate fears young people may have about pursuing careers in art and design and to demonstrate the systems the college has in place to ensure success in their programs.
The Hearst scholarship provides four semesters of assistance during the first two years of study, allowing the recipients to settle into the curriculum and the atmosphere at LSU. As the students advance in their studies, they can acquire additional funding within the university or college as well as from outside sources. As each of the first four Hearst recipients demonstrated, providing financial relief in the first two years of college is crucial in allowing the students to truly focus on their studies. By offering this financial relief, the college hopes to significantly increase minority student retention rates over the next six years.
The intended end result is that each student will be hired or pursue graduate school in their respective fields of study. Thanks to the foresight of The Hearst Foundations, the LSU College of Art & Design is better equipped to help increase diversity in the college, at LSU, and in the art and design professions.
“The leadership at the College of Art & Design is such that we have great faith in their ability to do great things,” stated Granger. “These students have ambition, tenacity, commitment—everything it takes for young people to excel and succeed in the world.”
Photos by Dason Pettit, MFA photography candidate at LSU
This article was originally published in the 2016 winter issue of Quad: The LSU College of Art & Design Magazine.