City of Newton art leaders, residents, the city council president, and the mayor gathered together March 31 to celebrate the legacy of local resident and artist Nancy Quint Schön.
The evening event at the Showcase Superlux Theatre at The Street in Chestnut Hill included the announcement of a new financial scholarship — known as the Nancy Quint Schön Arts Scholarship — aimed at supporting high school students who plan to pursue arts in higher education.
Schön is partnering with Newton Community Pride, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to foster community through art beautification projects and cultural programming, to give three $1,000 scholarships to three high school seniors. The Newton Community Pride Board plans on selecting one student from Newton North, one from Newton South, and one from Metco.
Schön has been involved in Newton’s public art scene and is perhaps best known for her bronze sculptures of “The Tortoise and the Hare” in Boston’s Copley Square, the “Make Way for Ducklings” sculpture in Boston’s Public Garden, and “Eeyore, Piglet, and Pooh” at the Newton Free Library. Gloria Gavris, board chair of Newton Community Pride, says Schön is a great person to honor and to help support the next generation of young artists.
“Nancy Schön is really a treasure to the city of Newton,” Gavris said in an interview. “It was really important both to her and Newton Community Pride to foster the next generation of artists. This was an opportunity to get together tonight to celebrate 93-year-old Nancy and her contributions to public art.”
In an interview, Newton mayor Ruthanne Fuller, who was also at the event, spoke highly of Schön’s impact on the community. She said the scholarship was not just honoring the good of the arts but also a good person.
“[She is] generous with her art and generous in lending her name to good causes,” Fuller said. “This scholarship that she is allowing her name to lent to will be a permanent, positive legacy for young artists forever here in Newton.”
Gavris, along with her colleagues, said the organization recognizes the cultural significance and value of the arts.
“I think it’s just important to invest in the arts,” Gavris said. “The arts are a driver of the local economy. The arts bring joy to people’s lives. It warms your soul.”
As guests began to pile into the sold out venue, many either held a signed copy of Schön’s book, “Ducks on Parade,” or a gift bag from the evening’s sponsors.
The night featured a conversation with Schön conducted by Jim Braude, the host of WGBH Greater Boston and co-host of Boston Public Radio. During the discussion, Schön said she was probably the luckiest person some would ever know.
“I have a profession that I love,” Schön said. “Creating a piece or a sculpture is an emotional experience that opens the door to being a human being.”
Braude and Schön went back and forth, narrowing down why this scholarship would be particularly beneficial to the youth aspiring to be artists just like her. Recognizing how difficult it can be to be successful in the art industry, Schön offered up her advice to those seeking a degree involving the arts.
“You have to do everything,” she said to the audience. “All I can say is that you have to be very strong. It’s tough, and you have to work very hard.”
As someone who has seen Newton grow as a community, Schön also talked about why making art accessible to the greater public is so important and how creating more art is essential to all.
“My public art sculptures are free to everyone,” she said to the crowd, which responded with applause. “It’s free for the public. It’s for you. It’s for everyone. Any day or night. Any time of the year.”
Christopher Pitts, co-chair of the Newton Cultural Council, said after the pandemic and with the lack of community interaction over the past two years, people in Newton are desiring something only the arts can provide.
“They don’t even know what they are missing,” Pitts said in an interview. “People need to be reminded about how important the arts are for their souls and their lives. Otherwise, we are all just ants.”
He also talked about why he thinks more focus needs to be on providing students enrolled in Massachusetts schools with arts programming.
“The lack of exposure erodes our cultural literacy to the point that we have generations now who really aren’t even exposed. So, their kids aren’t gonna get it,” Pitts said. “So, when the school systems ask for money for the arts they are like, ‘Why?’”
Gavris said The Nancy Quint Schön Arts Scholarship hopes to increase awareness toward the necessity of the arts and provide students with opportunities to grow inside of the profession. Newton Community Pride is currently doing a call for public art projects and Gavris said student artists may participate.
High school students are encouraged to submit an application containing an essay and a piece of their creative work to be considered for the scholarship, according to Newton Community Pride’s website. Scholarships are currently set to be announced on or before April 29. For more information on the details of the scholarship, visit newtoncommunitypride.org/scholarship/.
Alanis ‘Laney’ Broussard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.