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Isaac Yunhu Lee Memorial Arts Scholarship

Funded by
Picture of the donor
Lee Family
1 winner$25,650
Application Deadline
Apr 9, 2024
Winners Announced
May 9, 2024
Education Level
High School, Undergraduate
Recent scholarship winners
Eligibility Requirements
Education Level:
High school junior or senior, undergraduate

Abstract artist Pablo Picasso once said, “every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”

Being an artist can take on many different forms, and humans are unique in their ability to create original ideas and art that contributes something to the world. The Isaac Lee Memorial Arts Scholarship looks to provide funding to a student taking the next step in their artistic journey by going to art school. 

Low-income students in their junior and senior years of high school or in undergraduate school are eligible to apply if they are planning to attend or are currently attending art school. To apply, please write about a favorite piece of art you've created and what inspired its creation.

Selection Criteria:
Ambition, Need, Boldest Profile
Published January 5, 2024
Essay Topic

Please attach an image of a favorite piece of art you've created and write about what inspired its creation.

400–600 words

Winners and Finalists

Winning Application

Eun Jin Park
School of the Art Institute of ChicagoAustin, TX
"Each person's life owns its unique melancholy. However, the nature of melancholy is similar for everyone. It descends unannounced, like an uninvited guest, causing our very sincerity to hide like a frightened young animal. When we face melancholy, we hope for someone to rescue us from it. If you too have such despondency, I wish for hope and dream to come to you just as suddenly as the unexpected depression in life, hoping it will lift you from the reality that envelops you like a heavy blanket of sorrow." [From "Consolation"] "Consolation" is a piece that encapsulates my desire to convey my heart to everyone in this era who is weary of expectations and has lost the joys of reality. When emotions such as depression and loneliness align with reality, the individual's heart shrinks endlessly, rendering them oblivious to what is actually happening around them. I have experienced this myself. Although it was my longed-for study abroad, the unwanted conflicts, misunderstandings, and linguistic confusion in relationships of people that I faced alone at the age of 16 led me into a state of depression. I was a young, immature girl, yet bold and ambitious, with dreams that outshone my peers. However, my confidence, inflated by the various expectations of adults toward a child with an extraordinary dream in contrast to the environment I had and my serious dream of becoming a highly influential entrepreneur, quickly deflated numerous times. The cause was the disappointment of seeing myself not properly expressed amid linguistic barriers that confidence alone couldn't overcome, unfamiliar loneliness, and the unfulfilled self-image in the midst of adolescence. Such shattered confidence made me even more isolated, and with the addition of the pandemic, it seemed like an endless maze with no solution. That's when I fell into depression. However, with time, my dedication to learning English bore fruit, and art classes introduced me to a comforting companion named Painting. Through art, I found a voice that transcended language barriers, and this newfound friend guided me towards a fresh dream. Embracing this hope, I summoned the courage to pursue a path as an artist, aiming to spread joy to the masses. Suddenly, the darkness of depression lifted lightly, replaced by a renewed zest for life. Therefore, I want to convey to those currently experiencing depression that the world you walk in is not one of solitary turbulence. Just as I found hope amidst loneliness, so too can you. And I believe you will too. I extend my hand to share this hope with you. The rabbit buried in the clothes on the hanger was drawn, recalling myself who was in the overwhelming blue of depression, crying silently inside the closet since there was no place to cry. The contrasting feelings of the blue below and the red and yellow above symbolize how the depressive world that existed within me, entirely blue, disappeared when a new dream and hope emerged, lifting me up from despair just as the hand of an unknown owner lifts the hanger. It expresses the belief that when these dreams and hopes lift us lightly, we will face real happiness and joy within reality.
Alexis Ramsey
Savannah College of Art and DesignMilledgeville, GA
“The Scarlet that Signifies Family" is an artwork I hold dear and fully recognize as my favorite fully complete illustration. As citizens of the American country, we often find alignment and community within separated living spaces delineated by our social groups. This phenomenon applies to me particularly, as my identity falls into one of the many social groups of the diverse American population, Black American, by happenstance. Small homes and a big community have always characterized my childhood. As a member of a lower-class household, I’ve experienced life less than lavishly. However, this reality has not impacted my fondness for life and all of its forms, particularly the human race. Human interaction and community have always fascinated me and have also been part of my family-oriented background. This sense of family extends far beyond blood, touching the relationships of my family-friends and neighbors. Social gatherings, summer cookouts, and overall bonding have been stable elements of my life. My background has informed my artistic expression and direction, allowing me to find a voice in the world of illustration and creation. This piece, in particular, embodies the many aspects of character illustration that I love: a combination of a subject matter based on reality with almost surreal rendering to create a striking contrast between concept and execution. While in creation, I kept reminding myself of the type of mood and atmosphere that I wanted to evoke within the piece and how I wanted said atmosphere to influence the viewer. Furthermore, I wanted to create a simplistic landscape or environmental setting and also wanted to assign relatability to said environment. To reference the type of communities I’ve lived in, I choose to depict a street of a neighborhood, highlighting three small urban homes. This composition would allow me to incorporate a sense of detail into the piece and negate the potential threat of a cluttered composition. Through the stylized characters, I am able to portray realism and adopt them into more simplistic designs that reference real life rather than fully becoming real human flesh and blood. I chose to represent three age groups: child, young adult, and elder, to acknowledge the generational connection Black Americans often share with our homes. My favorite aspect of the piece by far is the vibrant hues of oranges and reds that ignite a comforting sense of serenity and somberness. Furthermore, the grainy overlay also contributes to the image's almost old and polaroid-like finish, almost as if the image captures a simple moment as polaroid cameras do. As a mostly character artist, I found it truly enthralling to challenge myself to complete an environmental illustration that includes elements of perspective, rendering, and proper composition. This artwork is what I believe to be representative of the type of art I’d hope to continue doing; twisting the mundane into intrigue.
Nadeige Fontaine
School of the Art Institute of ChicagoChicago, IL
I've included in this submission a drawing of the character I used to play in a game of Dungeons and Dragons. I don't remember how long it took for me to finish it, and it is certainly not my most extravagant piece ever. All I know is the process behind it brought the most joy I've experienced in a while, and it's a piece I'm proud of. Firstly, I was inspired by the fun I've had being surrounded by my new college friends as we embarked on an epic quest of fantasy and adventure. Every Friday we would meet in my little dorm and sit crammed at my work table, throw dice, and laugh the night away. Having just moved to a new city far from home, I was struck with loneliness and feared making friends wouldn't be easy. Fortunately, I finally found a group of people with the same nerdy interests as me, and we seemed to click immediately. Our imaginative minds with our knack for acting (good or bad) and the bond we've established truly made the night magical. The life we gave our characters could not be ignored, and I would sketch them out regularly, especially my own since I knew her the best. I gave her the name Runeah. I am a cartoonist, and I go to school for comics and animation, so I spend a lot of time on character design for my studies. On a day I wasn't swamped with school work, I remember feeling the urge to redesign Runeah. I've been drawing her a certain way for a while until I've realized maybe it's time for a revamp. I was just shooting for a quick sketch to get some ideas I had about her design on my Ipad, but as I've sketched, I've noticed a change in my art. Months of figure drawing class has brought a significant improvement in how I draw anatomy. She looked stronger with much better proportions. I was shocked to see what my hand had created subconsciously. This was invigorating, and I wanted to see how much farther I could push this sketch. I decided to line and color the doodle, and it turned out better than I expected. However, when I saw Runeah in her completion, the blank canvas behind her was concerning. I couldn't just leave her there. I created her to be a fearsome ranger who knew the enchanted forests like the back of her hand. I had to put her in her element... only I've never been good at drawing environments. With a deep breath, I remember an important lesson from my core studies class: Never be afraid to try something new. You may be surprised by the results and above all, it's a learning experience. I know I'm not the best at drawing forest environments, but for the sake of the momentum I had going on, I was more than happy to try. So I've searched for references, found tutorials, tried brushed I've never touched before, drew, erased, and drew some more until I have constructed a decent-looking woodland scene to place Runeah in. The piece was done. I sat back in amazement. This didn't look like anything I've drawn before. For the first time in a while, I have seen my growth as an artist. With the great times I've had with my friends and the art-making process that inspired itself, a revolutionary piece was made that marked a new era of art-making for me. I'm excited to see how my art continues to grow, keeping fun and learning in mind.


When is the scholarship application deadline?

The application deadline is Apr 9, 2024. Winners will be announced on May 9, 2024.

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