Home Arts New scholarship honoring Mickalene Thomas will support MFA students at Yale

New scholarship honoring Mickalene Thomas will support MFA students at Yale

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In honor of the influential artist Mickalene Thomascollectors Bernard Lumpkin and Carmine D. Boccuzzi, Jr, have just endowed a scholarship at the Yale School of Art to provide tuition assistance to one outstanding incoming MFA student each year. As part of the Mickalene Thomas Fellowship, the artist is committed to personally mentoring recipients throughout their stay in the two-year program.

“As long as I am in good health and able to do so, I will be an ongoing support for this student, whether he needs guidance, whether he needs a sounding board, whether he needs feedback reviews, have questions about navigating the market, need a recommendation, whatever,” says Thomas, who described being moved by the opportunity to rely on his legacy at Yale.

The first selected student will start at Yale in September. “I hope it’s the same type of student I was – someone in financial need who will fully benefit from being supported so they can focus on their creativity, freely and openly,” says Thomas, who while at Yale as an MFA student from 2000 to 2002 received financial aid but also held various jobs ranging from teacher’s assistant to restaurant worker. “For me, it was a huge burden to have to worry about how my tuition was going to be paid.”

Lumpkin and Boccuzzi, who met as Yale undergraduates, are longtime supporters of the school and of Thomas. One of her distinctive mixed-media rhinestone paintings celebrating black women, first featured in her Master of Fine Arts thesis exhibition, now takes pride of place in their collection, which focuses on artists. of African descent. A selection of their works, on tour in college and university museums since 2019 in the exhibition Young, talented and black: the contemporary art collection of the Lumpkin-Boccuzzi familywill be presented this fall at the Clough-Hanson Gallery at Rhodes College in Memphis.

“Mickalene has distinguished herself not only through her work, which is groundbreaking across different media, but also through her advocacy and activism,” said Lumpkin, who felt that Thomas’ track record of mentoring and providing oportunities to other artists corresponded well to the mission. of his philanthropy and that of Boccuzzi. “I talk to young artists a lot and many of them cite Mickalene as an influence and role model.”

Mickalene Thomas with her mural of Pauli Murray, a civil rights and women’s rights champion, in the dining hall of the Yale Resident College named after Murray Luisa Opaleski

Since graduating from Yale, Thomas has served on the faculty as a visiting artist, independent study coordinator, leading a professional development seminar, and most recently as a Presidential Fellow in 2020 and 2021. In March, a mural she designed of Pauli Murray, a civil rights and women’s rights champion, was unveiled in the dining hall of the Yale resident college named after Murray. And Thomas is co-curator of the exhibition Mickalene Thomas / Portrait of an improbable spacewhich opens Sept. 8 at the Yale University Art Gallery, placing early American portraits of black people in domestic tableaux reminiscent of pre-emancipation rooms, interspersed with works by herself and a group of artists emerging.

Thomas describes Yale as being the foundation of her development in terms of the network of peers and professors she met early on. But she says she didn’t always know how to approach the artists she admired. Building on her success, she has made mentoring a big part of her practice. “All the students I’ve worked with know that I’m accessible to them,” she says. “I make it very clear in my message that once our paths cross, I am an ally and an extension for them should they choose to be.”

To have this scholarship in his name “is really the biggest compliment I have received from supporters”. She adds. “It gives me a little more fuel in my fire to keep doing what I’m doing.”

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