Amuri Morris, a sophomore at Virginia Commonwealth University majoring in Studio Art, received a $2,000 Fine Art Scholarship from the Frederic Whitaker and Eileen Monaghan Whitaker Foundation. She is from Richmond, Virginia.
In her student statement that accompanied her application she explained what inspires her.
When I first faced homelessness I envisioned that my self-worth placed me above my financial circumstances and that I wore a cloak of distinction. However, my cloak corroded and became more slender with every new location I bounced from and every missed dinner. My family had never been wealthy but the fire that destroyed my family home and left me homeless in middle school was adversity I was not prepared to face.
My life rapidly began to deteriorate. My grades in school dropped, I was emotionally disconnected from my friends, and I found no solace with my family. I morphed into a paranoid person, imagining that everyone I interacted with rubbed their nose in sympathetic horror at my odor; or that the giggling classmates in the hall were laughing at the fact that I’d worn this outfit for the third time this week. The thing that saved me and stopped my downward spiral was art.
For me, the paintbrush in my hand allowed the boundary between reality and the imaginary to fade away. I began to see myself outside my circumstances and art became my vehicle for my individual journey of exploration and discovery. As I devoted myself to my art and my art class, my world seemed to improve. I won a gold portfolio in the Scholastics Art and Writing Competition, graduated high school with a 4.2 weighted GPA, and was able to get a job in high school to help end my family’s homelessness.
With art, I crafted my own world and turned my visions to reality. I see it as simultaneously the ultimate form of escapism and the strongest tool I have to shape my own reality. This experience changed my plans for the future because it secured my desire to become an art teacher (to ensure that students can have the same creative opportunities I did). I believe that the deprioritization of creativity in the classroom in favor of rehashed lesson plans stunts the development of a visionary lens and establishes limits for students, thus the line between reality and the imaginary becomes clearly defined.
Helen Keller once said, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.”
Here “sight” can be identical to the grace of an education and “visions” are the creative thoughts that such an education should stir. Therefore, my drive to enter my field is to ensure that future generations are presented with an appropriate level of artistic nurturing to maximize their potential. In school, I want to continue to learn how to effectively translate my artistic ideas and learn how to foster children’s’ artistic capacity.