DENTON, Texas (UNT) – Jonathan A. Molina-Garcia, who graduated in May from the University of North Texas with a bachelor of fine arts degree in photography and art history, has won a Jack Kent Cooke Graduate Arts Award worth up to $150,000.
The scholarship, given to only 20 college seniors this year, is considered the most prestigious award for students pursuing postgraduate work in the creative arts field.
"Going into graduate school with that kind of validation really means a lot," he said.
His mentors from the College of Visual Arts and Design include Denise Baxter, associate professor of art education and art history; Dornith Doherty, professor of studio arts; and Pavel Romaniko, assistant professor of studio arts.
Molina-Garcia submitted work to the award committee that began as an assignment in Romaniko's class to take portraits on a view camera. He took a photograph of his brother Elmer, a roofer, as he worked.
He saw the potential in the idea and began a documentary project following his parents, who work as housepainters in Odessa, Texas. His father is from Mexico and his mother is from El Salvador, so the project allowed him to look at the notions of identity in the United States. He used a 15-pound, large format camera instead of quicker digital camera.
"I wanted something that really forced me to be meditative about the work that I was doing," he said.
James Duban, director of the Office for Nationally Competitive Scholarships, said Molina-Garcia's talents have been proven by his other awards -- the Arts and Humanities Outstanding Paper Award at the 2013 University Scholar's Day and the College of Visual Arts and Design Creative Project Grant for his artistic endeavors focusing on community and identity.
"Jonathan is a brilliant photographer who possesses immense potential, both for graduate school, and beyond," Duban said.
Molina-Garcia plans to attend California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California. Inspired by his UNT mentors, he would like to teach on the college level while continuing his photographic endeavors.
This marks the second year in a row that a UNT student has won the Jack Kent Cooke Graduate Arts Award.