Friends of Art announces annual student awards

Posted on April 22, 2016 by Janika Carey

The Friends of Art of Sweet Briar College recently announced the recipients of this year’s student awards in the categories of writing, studio art and internships.

Acrylic painting by Corin Diaz ’19 Acrylic painting by Corin Diaz ’19

The awards are intended to recognize undergraduate excellence while also encouraging student interest in, and use of, the College’s art collection. Sweet Briar galleries and museum director Karol Lawson initiated the idea for the writing prize in 2009, according to Friends of Art president Nan Dabbs Loftin ’81.

“Friends of Art realizes the importance of acknowledging the hard work of Sweet Briar students,” Loftin said. “In recent years, we have increased the variety of student prizes that we are able to give to include studio art and two types of stipends for internships.”

Applicants must be currently enrolled undergraduates and the works must be original and recently created. Applicants and submissions may come from any academic discipline.

The Friends of Art Writing Prize went to art history major Scotia Marshall ’17 of Hillsville, Va., for her poem “Silence in the Outfield,” which was inspired by Paul Cadmus’s painting “Two Heads.”

Marshall, who minors in medieval and Renaissance studies and is pursuing an Arts Management Certificate, says the artist’s personal life played a big part in her inspiration.

“Artists cannot create without making a portrait of themselves in some way, and I found Cadmus’ homosexual repression in the boy he depicted. From there, I imagined what emotions the boy could be experiencing and what may have occurred to create the odd atmosphere in the piece. The narrative formed around those principles.”

Sophomores Velocity Haigh and Kollin Kirven earned honorable mentions — Haigh for “Amelia,” a music composition for oboe inspired by Joan Snyder’s multimedia print “…and acquainted with grief”; Kirven for her poem “Soviet Birds,” which was inspired by the current exhibition of Soviet posters in Pannell Gallery.

Entries in this category were judged by Friends of Art board member Susan Stephens Geyer ’74, assistant professor of English Eric Caldwell, Barton-Laing Professor in Art History Chris Witcombe and Lawson.

The Friends of Art Studio Art Prize was awarded to music major and Virginia Beach native Corin Diaz ’19 for an acrylic painting that references Christ walking on water. A Soviet poster titled “Enough!” in the current Pannell Gallery exhibition inspired the piece.

Diaz “stood out for many reasons,” said Friends of Art board member Celeste Wackenhut ’08, who served as a judge along with Lawson and studio art professor Laura Pharis.

“First, we were so pleased to see a freshman music major submit a work for the prize — that says a lot about Sweet Briar and how we encourage and nurture cross-disciplinary learning. Second, the Soviet posters in the Sweet Briar collection are not the friendliest of works to investigate and interpret, but Diaz embraced the challenge and took the political spirit of the work to a contemporary place. Her painting mimics an intentional naivety, and is daring with its own controversial subject matter. We’re very pleased to award her the prize this year.”

Grace Culley ’17 and her Dachshund Phoenix Grace Culley ’17 and her dachshund Phoenix

The Friends of Art Museum Internship Prize for an off-campus, academic-credit summer internship in an art museum went to Grace Culley ’17. Mary McDevitt ’17 took home the Friends of Art Creative Visual Arts Internship Prize for an off-campus, academic credit apprenticeship/internship in the gaming and animation field during the summer. Each prize comes with $2,500.

Internship awards were judged by Lawson, Friends of Art board member Kathleen “Katie” Keogh Weidner ’88 and director of career services Barb Watts.

Weidner says both Culley and McDevitt impressed with well-written, focused and thoughtful essays, and faculty recommendations that highlighted their determination and leadership skills.

Culley, an art history major from Louisa County, Va., has several interviews lined up. “This prize gives me the opportunity to fully focus on an internship this summer,” she said.

“This is [just] the beginning of my journey,” said studio art major and chemistry minor McDevitt, from Yulee, Fa. “To go into the video game industry will take more work, but it is nothing I can’t handle.”

She hopes the internship will help get her into graduate school to study video game design.

For more information about Friends of Art and these awards, please email Lawson at