Student Wins Arts Council Grant


Ayanna Dexter, Reporter

Senior English major Jessica Vera has been awarded a $250 artist grant  by the university’s Arts Council.

Vera, who is also a member of the Women With Children program, came to the university in January 2017 with her 6-year-old son Damien so she could pursue a bachelor’s degree.

“I knew I always wanted to write; I’ve been writing since I was 12 years old,” she said.

Vera didn’t apply for the grant but was recommended to enter by Dr. Ryan Watson, assistant professor of fine arts.

She entered to see if she could win because she had never won anything in her life. She also had been working on a story she decided to write during the summer.

Watson said Vera was in one of his classes last spring and they kept in touch throughout the summer as she reached out to him about her rough draft story.

“Jessica has natural talent,” Watson said. “Something about her writing is different in a good way. It draws you in as a reader even if you didn’t know her. She writes very visually and, as I read her story, I felt like I could see it.”

Watson found Vera’s story interesting and kept reading even after he had sent her revisions. He would like to see Vera pursue her dream as a writer and for her to keep her passion. He would also like to see her story turn into a free play or to be published somewhere.

Vera submitted her story “The Face of Truth” the end of August, a day before the official entry date. The story was about a mother who is living with her son and is plagued by dark figures haunting her about her past.

She discovers herself and learns acceptance so her son doesn’t fall for the same things that tainted her. She also learns what true love is from her son and how love conquers the dark.

Vera chose to submit the story for the grant because she had been working on it for the past year and felt it was concrete enough to submit. She felt the need to show her story because it meant a lot to her and holds significant meaning, as it is connected to her motherhood.

Writing her story has personally helped her get over her demons and get out of the dark because she knew she needed to change so that her son does not fall into the trap of struggling with his demons like she has in the past.

“I didn’t think that I would win,” said Vera. She laughed as she expressed her reaction from winning was what she called “dumbfounded.”

Vera’s end goal for her and her story is to combine her love of writing and film to create a visual of “The Face of Truth.”

Vera’s short story will be posted publicly after she works on furthering the project with details, illustrations, and animations. The MU Arts Council will also offer a second chance for art grants, which will be judged in the spring semester.