For first time, arts council chooses 3 scholarship winners

Payne: Outstanding entries justified choosing an extra recipient

Eoghan H. Fajardo’s portfolio included minuscule illustrations of dinosaurs and cryptids. Photo courtesy of Cordova Arts and Pageants

Faced with three outstanding applications for its annual scholarship, Cordova Arts and Pageants chose not to choose, awarding scholarships to all three. The organization usually selects two artists to receive its $1,000 scholarship to cover school expenses. However, this year’s unusually strong field merited an exception, said Paula Payne, president of Cordova Arts and Pageants.

Alena Craig, Eoghan H. Fajardo and Ria Smyke were selected as winners of the organization’s 2020 scholarship on the basis of artistic portfolios containing everything from medieval dresses to minuscule drawings of dinosaurs. Portfolios aren’t judged according to a strict rubric, but take into account the quality and presentation of the artwork and the level of commitment displayed by the applicant, Payne said.

Smyke, who was also the Cordova Jr./Sr. High School Class of 2020 salutatorian, said that the scholarship will help cover university costs, although her plans have been somewhat disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s going to be a help, although I haven’t figured out quite what I’m doing in the fall, with everything that’s going on,” Smyke said. “The school I was planning on going to is going online, so I’m hoping that I can maybe push the scholarship over to next year.”

A self-portrait by scholarship recipient Ria Smyke. Photo courtesy of Ria Smyke

This year’s field of applicants for the scholarship was strong, with Craig and Fajardo being Smyke’s most obvious competition, she said. Smyke strengthened her entry by including material from a variety of different fields: visual art, photography, dance and music.

“I love making art because it helps me express emotions through something other than talking,” Smyke said. “It’s definitely something that helps you through life. Even if you don’t really think you’re interested, try out photography or music or theatre or any of the arts. You’ll find a great community of people also.”

Fajardo’s portfolio included dime-sized illustrations of dinosaurs and cryptids. Craig’s portfolio included several dresses and costumes she had designed, as well as material from classes she had taught at the Net Loft crafts store.

Cordova Arts and Pageants has awarded an annual scholarship since the organization was founded in 1971, Payne said. Prior recipients include educator Marleen Moffitt and Mt. Eccles Elementary School Principal Gayle Groff. Early scholarships were around $250, gradually increasing in response to the rising cost of education. Initially, only one recipient was selected, increasing to two during the 2010s. The decision to select a third recipient this year was also influenced by the hardship of the coronavirus pandemic, which occasioned a little extra generosity, Payne said.