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Breaking the Starving-Artist Cycle

Award helps CFA students establish themselves in the arts field

CFA Dean Walt Meissner with Kahn Award winners (from left) Meghan Hynson, Tijana Bjelajac, and Lydia Musco. Photo by BU Photo Services

As three College of Fine Arts graduates embark on their careers, in sculpture, enthnomusicology, and scene design, they won’t have to worry about being starving artists. Lydia Musco, Meghan Hynson, and Tijana Bjelajac, winners of this year’s Esther B. and Albert S. Kahn Career Entry Awards, have each received a $10,000 grant to help launch their art careers.

The Kahn Award fund was established in 1985 with a $1 million endowed contribution from Esther Kahn (SED’55, Hon.’86). The awards are given each spring to undergraduate or graduate students completing their final semester. The winners, one from each CFA school, are selected by the daughters of the late Esther and Albert Kahn and a CFA faculty panel.

“The Kahn Awards are one of the truly unique career entry opportunities in the country, and they enable some of our most talented graduating students to begin their careers as professional artists,” says Walt Meissner, CFA dean ad interim. “Lydia, Tijana, and Meghan are remarkable artists who have made lasting impressions on their professors and peers, and each of them now has the chance to begin to carve out her own unique artistic path. We’re all eager to watch these three as their careers continue to flourish.”

Sculptor Musco (CFA’07), 28, was raised and home-schooled in Royalston, Mass., and attended Bennington College. After graduating, she traveled to Minnesota, Vermont, Korea, and Norway to learn and practice different sculpture techniques. She arrived at the school of visual arts in 2005, “when I felt really sure where I wanted to be and was ready to really focus,” she says.

One of two graduate students in sculpture, Musco says, she benefited by being surrounded by other art students. “It made me look closely at how I, and the world, think about three-dimensional art,” she says. “It’s been challenging, and my work has changed since I’ve been at BU.”

Musco will spend August at the Edward F. Albee Foundation on Long Island, N.Y., and then six months in Wyoming, at artist-in-residence programs. Then she plans to return to Massachusetts and set up her own sculpture studio. The Kahn Award will help her pay for rent, materials, tools, and supplies. “It’s exciting, because it opens up a lot of possibilities,” she says. “This gift takes away a lot of worry and helps me continue to be able to make sculptures.”

Hynson (CFA’07), 21, of Lansdale, Pa., studied ethnomusicology and oboe performance in the school of music. During her undergraduate years she traveled in Peru, Asia, China, Bali, and Indonesia. Her time in Bali sparked an interest in the high-art tradition of Balinese gender wayang, which combines music with shadow play.

The Kahn Award will enable Hynson to live in the village of Mas in Bali for a year to study and transcribe local music and to research shadow play. “All of their music is taught orally and not notated,” she says. “I want to discover the old and uncover the new.”

Tijana Bjelajac (CFA’07), 28, of Belgrade, Serbia, came to the school of theatre to study scene design after receiving a B.F.A. at the University of Belgrade. She has worked on BU productions of La Boheme and The Tempest, “an unforgettable experience that made me love theater even more than I did before,” Bjelajac says. She has also worked on Huntington Theatre Company and Boston Playwrights’ Theatre productions.

Bjelajac, who lives in New York City, plans to use the Kahn Award to experiment with new scene-design materials, such as plastic. She would also like to travel to theater workshops around the world to connect with artists.

Abby Jordan can be reached at ajordan@bu.edu.