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Artist steps into the spotlight

Michelle Forsyth, assistant professor of fine arts, recently received two project grants that jumpstarted her career by opening the door to exhibitions and awards. In addition, the grants provided her with real-world experience to share with her students, enriching their own professional preparation. 

“When you get grants, your work is taken more seriously,” Forsyth explained. “They serve as stepping stones.”

The first stepping stone was a 2004 Edward R. Meyer Project Award from the College of Liberal Arts that provided a six-week residency at the Banff Centre in Canada. Through that experience, Forsyth was invited as a guest lecturer at the Emily Carr Institute of Art + Design in Vancouver, B.C., in 2005.

Then she was included in a three-person exhibition at Truck Contemporary Art in Calgary in summer 2006, was selected for a group show at the Hogar Collection Gallery in Brooklyn in September 2006, and became a finalist in the 2007 Miami University Young Painters Competition for the William and Dorothy Yeck Award.

The second stepping stone was a 2005 professional artist grant from the Canada Council for the Arts. Forsyth was selected for two solo shows as a result. The first, in March 2007, will be at the Lorinda Knight Gallery in Spokane. The second, in October 2007, will be at Deluge Contemporary Arts in Victoria, B.C.

Understanding and experiencing the steps to success as a professional artist allows Forsyth to share those necessary skills with the graduate students in her practicum seminar.

“Now I can demonstrate how to create a successful packet — including a statement about the work, images and a vita — and then point students to available grants,” she said. “I can really help them begin their careers. Through my seminar last spring, two of my MFA students successfully applied to exhibitions.

“My experience also builds our department. I now get e-mail from prospective graduate students who want to come to WSU because they saw my work or my website (ONLINE @ My work is attracting strong graduate students as well as benefiting all the students I teach.”

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