Mary Vernon plans to retire in May 2018, and Meadows School of the Arts wanted to create a fitting honor for the longtime art and art history professor. In 2016, along with a group of donors, the School established the Mary Vernon Painting Prize to help launch the careers of top art students.
Now, Meadows seeks to endow the prize fund in perpetuity, so that it can continue to help students establish their careers in the art world.
The School has set a goal of $100,000 or more to endow the annual award – presented to an undergraduate painter with the best body of work in the year, as judged by faculty. When fully vested, the endowment fund will generate $5,000 annually to be awarded to one or more promising art students.
To date, more than $60,000 has been secured toward the goal. An anonymous donor has offered to match dollar-for-dollar the next $20,000 in new gifts to help achieve or surpass the funding goal.
“In spring 2016, Mary told me it was time to transcend from an art student into an emerging artist,” says Nicolás González ’17, the prize’s first recipient. “She told me to invest my passion and time with painting materials that are rich in pigment and surfaces that are delicate to the touch. She said, ‘Let the world know that you are a painter, a serious painter, who knows how to paint.’”
The Mary Vernon Painting Prize has enabled González to purchase higher-quality painting supplies such as oils, Yupo paper, linen fabric and brush script liners, he says. “Through these specific materials, my abilities as a painter have greatly expanded. They have allowed me to have a better understanding that the quality of the painting surface and the type of paint are very important.”
Vernon, says González, taught him to be brave and to persevere. “She encouraged me to never give up within the world of the arts,” he says. “There were times when I just wanted to throw in the towel, but every time, Mary seemed to always appear as a glowing light within the shadows of my fear. She would always encourage me to be better, to always do my best, and tell me that doors would always open as long as I turned the key. She said, ‘You already possess the key. It’s in your heart and soul, it speaks through your work. As long as you keep trying, doors will always open.’
“Mary Vernon is someone very special to this world and a true master of the arts and its history. Her love for the arts and her students is equal to none. I am so grateful to have Mary Vernon as my mentor, professor and true friend whom I hold close to my heart.”
— Written by Mary Guthrie