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UA Art & Art History Celebrates 2024 Outstanding Students

The UA Department of Art and Art History is proud to announce the six recipients of our Outstanding Student Awards for academic year 2023-2024, awarded in recognition of their exemplary dedication and commitment to academic or artistic achievement, during Honors Day ceremonies on April 5, 2024. These awards are the department’s most prestigious of the year, given only to a single graduate and undergraduate student in our degree programs in art history (BA, MA), graphic design (BFA), and studio art (BA, BFA, MFA).

Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award in Art History: Daphne Shearer

Daphne Shearer, Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award in Art History, 2024

Daphne Shearer is a graduating senior double major in art history and studio art from Memphis, Tennessee. Shearer is also in the accelerated master’s program (AMP) in art history and is pursuing a graduate certificate in museum studies. She was awarded the Julie Peake Holaday Memorial Endowed Scholarship and the Carol B. Merkle Endowed Scholarship. After earning her MA in art history next year, Shearer hopes to begin an art museum career.

Outstanding Undergraduate BA Student Award in Studio Art: Lauren Agnello

Lauren Agnello, Outstanding BA Undergraduate Student Award in Studio Art, 2024

Lauren Agnello, from Cullman, Alabama, will earn a Bachelor of Arts in studio art and foreign languages and literature with an art history minor. Agnello’s awards include the National Italian American Foundation NIAF On Campus Fellowship 2023-2024. She has been named to the President’s List every semester since her freshman year. Agnello was selected to illustrate a children’s book about a tropical species of frog – the Pumpkin Toadlet – and the effects of habitat fragmentation in the rainforests of Brazil for a project funded through the National Science Foundation’s RIBBiTR (Resilience Institute Bridging Biological Training and Research) grant. Her artwork was also juried into the inaugural Susan N. McCollough Fine Arts Initiative at The University of Alabama Gallery in Tuscaloosa. Agnello is treasurer of the UA Italian Club and active in the UA Italian Outreach Program. She is fluent in Italian and hopes to continue her Italian and art and art history studies after graduation.

Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award in Graphic Design: Darrell Shelby

Darrell Shelby, Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award in Graphic Design, 2024

Darrell Shelby, a Tuscaloosa native, will earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts in graphic design in May. Shelby was named one of Graphic Design USA’s “Students to Watch” in February 2024. He said he has “a passion for creating brand identities, user experience and user-oriented design” and currently holds a graphic design internship with Hand in Paw. Assistant Professor Jonathan Cumberland said, “Darrell is an exceptional designer who has been a model student in the program. His work ethic and keen sense of design will serve him well as he starts what I’m confident will be a successful career.”

Outstanding Undergraduate BFA Student Award in Studio Art: Samantha Norris

Samantha Norris, Outstanding BFA Undergraduate Student Award in Studio Art, 2024

Samantha Norris, from Hoover, Alabama, will earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts in studio art with concentrations in ceramics and sculpture. Among her awards, Norris won the Farley Moody Galbraith Endowed Scholarship, Elizabeth B. Bashinsky Endowed Art Scholarship, Barbara Ann Taylor Guthans Endowed Scholarship, and Rising Tide award. Her research for her final BFA thesis exhibition, titled “Moth Holes,” was supported by a UA ASSURE grant and Norris was accepted to present at the 2024 URCA Conference, where she won the 2024 Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity (URCA) Conference Award for Excellence and Achievement. Norris has worked as a foundry specialist at the UA Foundry since 2022, designing and fabricating projects for clients including the City of Tuscaloosa and Nucor. Associate Professor Wade MacDonald said that having worked with Norris for almost three years, “[I] have witnessed a remarkable expansion of her artistic vision and skills in ceramics, woodworking, and metal fabrication – far surpassing expectations. Sam serves as an inspiration to both undergraduate and graduate students, consistently pushing the boundaries of her abilities as an artist and thinker while challenging her peers to do the same.”

Outstanding Graduate Student Award in Art History: Ivy Borden

Ivy Borden, Outstanding Graduate Student Award in Art History, 2024

In May, after only two years, Ivy Borden will complete her Master of Arts degree in art history through the accelerated master’s program; she also received her BA in art history and Southern studies in 2023. Borden, who is from Birmingham, wrote her master’s thesis, “Entangled among Things: Kudzu as a Creative Medium in Contemporary Southern Art,” to explore artists’ consideration and use of the kudzu vine as a reflection on Southern identity and ecology. She presented her research paper, “Creative Care: Artistic Action in the Stop Cop City Movement” at Florida State University’s 40th Annual Art History Graduate Student Symposium in March 2024, and was invited to submit it for publication in FSU’s peer-reviewed graduate journal Athanor. Borden has worked as a gallery assistant at the Kentuck Art Center, the Paul R. Jones Museum, and as a docent at UA’s Gorgas House giving guided tours. She was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa in 2024 and served as vice president of The Guild: UA Society of Art History Students. After traveling internationally, Borden said she plans to pursue doctoral studies in the intersections of material culture and eco-humanities.

Outstanding Graduate Student Award in Studio Art: Nathan Childers

Nathan Childers, Outstanding Graduate Student Award in Studio Art, 2024

Nathan Childers will earn a Master of Fine Arts degree in painting in May. He focuses on place and queer identity in his work. Childers’ recent awards are Best in Show in the Susan N. McCollough Fine Arts Initiative, The University of Alabama Gallery in Tuscaloosa; Best in Show in Queer Aesthetics, Mississippi University for Women; Second Place in Positive/Negative 38 National Juried Art Exhibition, Finalist for the AXA Art Prize-US Exhibition, New York Academy of Art; Semi-Finalist for the Fulbright Open Research/Study Award; an Individual Artist Small Grant from The Arts and Humanities Council of Tuscaloosa to support his thesis exhibition; and a Capstone International Scholarship for study in Spain in 2023. He also was awarded a UA Graduate Council Fellowship and an assistantship in his graduate work. Childers’ artwork was also juried into the Georgia Watercolor Society 42nd National Exhibition in Carrollton, Georgia; Ink Only III National Juried Print Biennial; Art Fields; Mark Arts Oil Painting National Exhibition; and Kansas Watercolor Society National Exhibition. His thesis exhibition, titled Still Lives, will be open through May 3, 2024, in The University of Alabama Gallery in the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center in Tuscaloosa.

For more information about the programs in the UA Department of Art and Art History, go to this page or contact the department at (205) 348-5967.