Just the Facts

Columbia University


Documenting the visual cultures of Oaxaxa, Mexico, and Lima, Peru

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Nicola Lopez

I want to underscore the fact that the year that I had the Mortimer Hays-Brandeis Traveling Fellowship was pivotal in my development as an artist. I feel very lucky to have had the opportunities that the Fellowship provided me, and I feel that it was instrumental in bringing me to where I am today.

Presently, I am a working artist and also have been teaching as an adjunct at several different colleges, currently at Bard College and Cooper Union. The Fellowship played a very important role in smoothing the road to becoming a full-time artist.

Being a recipient of the Fellowship gave me not only the time and resources to develop as an artist at a crucial time, but it also gave me the confidence to pursue the career after leaving the “safe” environment of college. In terms of my work, it was an important year in my artistic development in that I began exploring some of the themes and technical approaches with which I am still working today. The Fellowship gave me a sense of confidence that allowed me to pursue my work and take myself seriously as an artist, even after my return to New York at the end of my Fellowship year.

It was also because of the Fellowship that I made a strong connection with Oaxaca and several artists who live and work there. This is a relationship that has grown since that year, leading eventually to shows there and elsewhere in Mexico, to repeated visits, a six-week residency in Oaxaca and to many friendships and professional relationships that I value highly.

If I were to apply for the Fellowship today, my focus would be different, but I would not change what I did in 1998, as I am happy with where it has ultimately led me. For me, the Fellowship presented an opportunity to bring together two of the major interests I had in college — visual art and anthropology — and to explore that encounter. I think that this was good for me at that time and was an appropriate and productive next step after college.

My advice to students is that they should definitely apply. Even if not awarded the Fellowship, the process of application can also be very positive in that it forces one to organize his or her ideas and goals. It is also good practice for all of the other grants, residencies, applications and proposals with which an artist is inevitably faced.