Art, art history junior earns Gilman Scholarship to study on SIT Argentina

January 22nd, 2020   |   School for International Training, SIT, SIT Study Abroad

Daniela Chavez is excited to study memory and social activism through the arts

Thanks to a Gilman scholarship, University of Nebraska-Lincoln art and art history major Daniela Chavez will study abroad this summer on SIT Argentina: Memory and Social Activism Through the Arts.

This story originally appeared on the website of University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts. It is reprinted here with permission.

Lincoln, Neb. -- Daniela Chavez, a junior art and art history double major with a minor in human rights from Grand Island, Nebraska, is one of 17 undergraduate students at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln to earn a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship to study abroad between Dec. 2019 and October 2020.

Chavez will study “Memory and Social Activism Through the Arts” in Argentina through the School for International Training next summer from June 22 until Aug. 2, 2020.

“I’m pretty excited,” she said. “I was pretty surprised, actually. I was having a hard time finding the right program for me. Luckily, I came upon the program in Argentina, and I applied for it and I applied for the Gilman. It feels good.”

The Gilman is a nationally competitive scholarship awarded twice a year by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered by the Institute of International Education. Recently adjusted application cycles have given students the opportunity to apply several months in advance of their program and allows students to finalize their plans with the reassurance of funding.

The Gilman Scholarship Program supports underrepresented undergraduates who might not otherwise participate due to financial constraints and aims to encourage students to study and intern in a diverse array of countries and to study languages, especially critical-need languages.

Her combined interests in human rights, art history and studio art led her to ‘Memory and Social Activism Through the Arts’ in Argentina.

“One of the benefits of having faculty advisors in the Hixson-Lied College is that we can really shepherd students through an individualized academic path that maximizes their potential,” said Associate Professor of Art Sandra Williams, who helped guide Chavez in the application process. “Advising also allows you to continue mentoring students when you no longer have them in class. Studying abroad for long-term programs can be daunting, so supporting them in formulating a game plan, cobbling together resources at the department, college, university and national levels takes away some of the anxiety, at least some of the financial anxiety, and builds self-efficacy; this is essential when going on a big adventure like this. Daniela tirelessly searched for a program that would be a perfect fit.

"Her combined interests in human rights, art history and studio art led her to ‘Memory and Social Activism Through the Arts’ in Argentina. The skills acquired through competing for a national award like this will serve her well as she transitions into the professional field or continues on to masters and doctorate programs. And of course, living and studying in Argentina will be transformative as well.”

As part of “Memory and Social Activism Through the Arts,” Chavez will be creating a photo essay.

“Specifically, they’re going to be looking at how artists continue to do social activism through the making of art,” Chavez said. “They’re specifically focusing on photography, and we’re going to learn how to tell a story through the photo essay.”

Chavez said she knew that she wanted to study abroad during her time at Nebraska.

“I like learning about different cultures and with my human rights minor, I’m really interested in learning about how the world works and all the different things that go on in the world,” she said. “I was like, ‘I need to go and study abroad somewhere.’”

... they’re going to be looking at how artists continue to do social activism through the making of art,. They’re specifically focusing on photography, and we’re going to learn how to tell a story through the photo essay.

She hopes the experience will help her to become even more independent.

“I guess just knowing how to be more independent,” she said. “I think I already am, sort of, but I think just putting yourself out there. I’m really excited about getting to talk to artists there and networking more and just going out there and seeing how people are making art in different countries and how they’re using it to state something about their community. I think that’s really important.”

Chavez has focused primarily on art history during her time at UNL, but is also interested in making art.

“What I like about making art is that I’m able to talk about who I am and where I come from and all that kind of stuff, which I think is really important,” she said. “And just being able to show people what matters to me, and hopefully get them to see that it matters for everyone.”

Her interest in social activism was sparked during her sophomore year, when her color and composition class went to an exhibition at The Assemblage, where she saw a work from School of Art, Art History & Design Director Francisco Souto that was focused on his response to the political and economic situation in his home country of Venezuela.

“I really liked how the piece worked,” Chavez said. “And I was like, ‘Wow, this is really cool how people can combine history and maybe activism and cultural identity.’ So that piece really struck me. I was like, “You can do things like that.’ Art doesn’t have to just be about pretty things. It can be about things that matter to you, and I think what matters to me is knowing what’s happening in those places or how you’re connected to them.”

I’m really excited about getting to talk to artists there and networking more and just going out there and seeing how people are making art in different countries and how they’re using it to state something about their community.

As part of her program in Argentina, Chavez will live with a host family.

“I’m excited for the homestay experience,” she said. “I really like a lot of '80s music from Argentina, and I’m excited to be able to share with them and say ‘I know about this.’ I will probably do stuff with them, which I’m pretty excited about, too, because I don’t know how life is there.”

She is also excited just to meet other artists there and work with them.

“We’re also visiting a couple of museums there,” she said. “I don’t remember which museum, but I know one of them has work by three Latin American female artists that I really like, so I’m really excited about that. I’m pretty excited to learn about the culture in Argentina.”