Granting Access to Artists

Bard LLI donates $2,500 each year to the Fund for Visual Learning.

When Ellen Driscoll, Program Director of Studio Arts, came to Bard in 2013, she spent her first year on the job listening. To her dismay, she learned that the Studio Arts Program was perceived to be a realm only for the privileged. It was just too expensive for students with limited finances to buy the materials they needed. So she devised a plan.

Funding the Arts

In 2014, she created the Fund for Visual Learning. It began fundraising with a barbecue and band event that netted all of $200. Fortunately, a friend of Ellen’s was an experienced fundraiser, and volunteered to help her write up the essential tenets of the Fund, after which the Development Office stepped in to help.That first fall, Studio Arts also had an exhibition of student work in Kingston and sold their first artwork to support the Fund. With a generous donation from the father of a Bard student, the Fund began making grants in the fall of 2014.

Now the Fund supports students at every level. First there are “microgrants” to students on financial aid who are taking entry level courses in the Studio Arts program. The grants provide the students with a kit of materials for drawing, printmaking, and painting. Support continues throughout the students’ programs, culminating in the senior project—which is known as SPROJ.

Impact on Students

In 2021, nine students were given assistance for SPROJ. One of them has already been introduced to LLI–Chris Minter was a presenter in the Seniors-to-Seniors program this year. This is what Chris says about his grant:

First of all, please forgive me for not reaching out to you before now to express my deep appreciation for the support provided to me from the Fund for Visual Learning to help me to complete my SPROJ. Typically, I have relied on family to help me financially; however, the pandemic caused a financial hardship for them. This prevented my family from having resources to help me to complete my SPROJ. Completing my SPROJ is an educational requirement so I am very grateful to the Fund for Visual Learning because it helped me to fill this financial gap, thus helping me to meet my graduation requirement. With funding from the Fund for Visual Learning, I was able to purchase paint supplies and materials that I needed to produce my SPROJ called, “Primary Colors: A Beacon of Light – Black Future is Now.” My SPROJ explored themes of race and portraiture paying homage to a network of some of the individuals that have influenced my artistic journey so far.

The Fund’s impact on my ability to complete my SPROJ made a world of difference and as a result, I am better off.

Graduating senior, Moshopofeluwa Olagunji, who signs his email Mo O, also expressed his thanks for the grant from the Fund:

The Fund for Visual Learning played an instrumental role in my Senior Exhibition. I was able to work with a variety of mediums and supplies, from oil paints, acrylics, plastic, vinyl, sculpture, text, drawing to video work. I wanted to challenge myself, and the grant afforded me that; I had a dynamic exhibition with varying mediums. Without the FVL grant and the assistance from the Studio Arts faculty, the exhibition would have been limited. Thank you for the continued support of artists!!

Student Art Sale

In addition to donations to the Fund, the Studio Arts program offers work by students and faculty for sale in an exhibition both in person and online usually held in the fall. This year’s online sale was the most successful ever. In fact, for serious collectors, the sales are a great opportunity, since the Studio Arts program attracts visiting artists in residence who include several well-known (and pricey) artists like Tschabalala Self (Bard ‘12) and Jeffrey Gibson.