Two Baylor Students Earn Placement in Columbia University Art Fellowship Program

May 9, 2011

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Plano senior Chris Russell and Shreveport, La., junior Hannah Lee have been accepted into Columbia University's Summer Fellowship Painting Program in New York City.

"There were over 1,000 applicants for 10 slots. Those applicants included independent artists, graduate students, and like these two, undergraduates," said Mark Anderson, professor and chair of the art department at Baylor. "We're very proud of them."

When Russell learned of his acceptance, "I lost all sense of sanity," he said. "Lots of yelling and victory dances! I couldn't believe it. Maybe they had confused me with a more talented and connected Christopher Russell?" he joked.

Students were asked to submit an art portfolio during the application process, which included 10 images.

"I selected the most successful pieces, but it was also important to show progression, cohesion and diversity of mediums," Russell said. "I included mostly paintings, but also lithographic prints and pastel drawings. In fact, I finished one extended drawing moments before documenting it, and putting it in the collection I immediately mailed to the panel."

Acceptance means the students will be given room and board, as well as access to a constant stream of visiting nationally-acclaimed artists. The program is six weeks of intense painting, gallery tours and workshops on topics concerning an artist's future. A final exhibition will be shown in Columbia's gallery.

Russell became interested in art through comics. "The dynamic approach to composition and the treatment of the figure in action immediately caught hold of me," he said.

Russell started as a graphic design major before switching to studio art after he completed his first painting.

"From then on, I felt I couldn't settle for a corporate working environment, but a no-holds-barred pursuit of the fine arts. It's not in my blood to hold back," he said.

Russell credits the Baylor art department and Professor Karl Umlauf, senior painting professor and artist in residence, for his success.

"Before coming, I had little-to-no formal art training, so they defined what a visual pursuit looks like for me," he said.

Russell believes their placement in the program "says a lot about both the Baylor art department, and what a huge blessing Hannah and I have been given," he said. "It's just about one of the most competitive moments for a young artist."

by Susie Typher, student newswriter, (254) 710-6805

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