Two arts students win VMFA fellowships

Catherine Samples won $4,000 after submitting illustrations like the one above to the VMFA fellowship program. Artwork courtesy of Catherine Samples.

Brenda Acevedo
Contributing Writer

Two communications arts majors beat out more than 700 applicants to win a $4,000 Fellowship Award from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

VCU sophomore Catherine Samples and junior Carson Jones received an undergraduate award last month from one of the 27 fellowships awarded to Virginia art students and professionals.

The VMFA has committed to funding Virginia artists through its Fellowship Program since 1940. To date, about $5 million has supported professionals, graduate and undergraduate student artists. The 2014-15 cycle has marked the program’s highest number of applicants, with a total of 798 since its establishment.

Samples said her professors steered her toward communication arts, with a focus on physical drawing. Self-described as being shy, Samples said she felt getting a fellowship award was far from her reach. When she heard about the program and the buzz students generated about the award, Samples decided to take a chance.

“When I opened the envelope in the mail, I started crying because I was so excited,” Samples said. “It didn’t seem real.”

Samples said her professors played a valuable role helping her achieve her goal. She said communication arts professor Sarah Faris particularly was there for moral and academic support and helped her with time management of her projects.

“She really pushed me to see it through in the end,” Samples said.

Jones is an aspiring concept and comic artist, and said he has been drawing since he was a little kid. For his artwork, he uses pen, ink and color markers to layer the images. The fellowship was a motivator for Jones, because he said is helps him further pursue his education as a visual artist. Like Samples, Jones could not believe he had won the award.

“Having the envelope and the paper saying that I got it really drove the point home,” Jones said. “It was actually happening.”

With the help of his professor TyRuben Ellingson, Jones said his pieces have progressed into a conceptual form of art. In the future, Jones said he wanted to get more involved in the digital aspect of art and wants his major to grow into a professional career.

“I can’t imagine doing anything else in the future,” Jones said.

Jones and Samples will attend a ceremony on March 7 to receive their awards.

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