A NEW CHARLES WHITE Art and Design Scholarship at the Otis Art College of Art and Design in Los Angeles provides students from underrepresented groups with full scholarships for four years. The scholarship honors the legacy and influence of Charles White, a master draftsman recognized for his powerful, realist images of Black people that capture their strength, dignity, and beauty.
The celebrated artist and beloved faculty member taught at Otis from 1965 until his death in 1979, inspiring many students who became notable artists, including David Hammons, Kerry James Marshall, Suzanne Jackson, Ulysses Jenkins, Kent Twitchell, Judithe Hernandez, Richard Wyatt, and Alonzo Davis.
Charles White painting Mary McLeod Bethune mural, 1978.| © The Charles White Archives, Photo by Frank J. Thomas
The annual scholarship is funded in part by a $10 million gift from Mei-Lee Ney, chair of Otis College’s Board of Trustees, and established in cooperation with the artist’s son, C. Ian White, and The Charles White Archives.
“We are extraordinarily grateful to Mei-Lee for her generous gift and shared commitment to Otis College’s important diversity, equity, and inclusion work and to Ian White for partnering with us to celebrate his father’s work and legacy,” Otis College President Charles Hirschhorn said when the scholarship was announced yesterday.
Ney is president of Richard Ney & Associates Asset Management Inc., which she helped run in partnership with her late husband, Richard.
“It’s an honor to provide access for underrepresented students to an art and design education at Otis College, an institution I care about deeply. Charles White opened the door for so many artists of diverse backgrounds through his impactful work and teaching, and it’s wonderful to continue that legacy through this new scholarship,” Ney said in a statement.
“It’s an honor to provide access for underrepresented students to an art and design education at Otis College, an institution I care about deeply. Charles White opened the door for so many artists of diverse backgrounds through his impactful work and teaching, and it’s wonderful to continue that legacy through this new scholarship.” — Mei-Lee Ney
Last year, Ney gave Otis $1 million to support the creation of an executive position dedicated to the college’s equity, diversity, and inclusion (DEI) strategy. Her $10 million gift dedicated to the Charles White Scholarship is among the largest donations Otis has ever received.
Next spring, the inaugural scholarship will be awarded to an incoming first-year art and design student from an underrepresented group in Los Angeles County, who will enter Otis in fall 2022. In 2023, the scholarship will expand, annually providing opportunities for two underrepresented students—one from Los Angeles County, and one from anywhere in the United States.
“This scholarship program creates an opportunity for a young artist to explore their creative gifts. Charles White was twice denied scholarships to further his artistic interests as a young adult solely based on his pigmentation. As an established artist, he was even denied entry to see his own work because of his pigmentation. I appreciate the generous gift by Mei-Lee for her recognition of White’s contribution and acknowledgement of the lack of students of color in artistic institutions,” said artist, author, and educator C. Ian White, who oversees The Charles White Archives
“Generations of students were impacted by Charles White’s presence on the Otis campus, who were and continue to be tremendous contributors in their own right to the arts and their communities. This scholarship will be an avenue for young creatives to enter the arts and build a more inclusive cultural landscape.”
“Charles White was twice denied scholarships to further his artistic interests as a young adult solely based on his pigmentation.… I appreciate the generous gift by Mei-Lee for her recognition of White’s contribution and acknowledgement of the lack of students of color in artistic institutions.”
— C. Ian White
Hammons, the renowned conceptual artist, is among the many students White moved and motivated. He attended Otis from 1968 to 1972. The college shared the following reflection from Hammons about his experiences in White’e classroom:
“I stayed in that class a long, long time. But you know it was more about being around a professional, it was like being in the room with [Muhammad] Ali. Or James Baldwin. Just being in that room with that kind of confidence, [that kind of] honesty—that’s what was really happening. Whatever I was drawing wasn’t really that important. The spirit and the energy and the dignity was.” CT
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and Art Institute of Chicago co-published a fully illustrated exhibition catalog to accompany “Charles White: A Retrospective.” The volume features contributions from the exhibition curators, scholars, and artist Kerry James Marshall. Also consider “Charles White: The Gordon Gift to The University of Texas” and “Grandpa and the Library: How Charles White Learned to Paint,” a children’s book by C. Ian White. “Charles White: Black Pope” was published on the occasion of “Charles White—Leonardo da Vinci,” the MoMA presentation curated by David Hammons. “David Hammons: Body Prints, 1968-1979” accompanied the artist’s recent exhibition at The Drawing Center in New York.
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