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Hannah Mellino began her junior year with a newfound self-confidence, thanks to the generous donors who fund the Justus W. Cohoe Art Scholarship and Evelyn Gray Anderson Memorial Workshop and Travel Scholarship.

As a graphic design and visual arts with a biological illustration concentration major, Hannah hasn’t always been sure of herself. She started her college journey at a community college near her hometown of Olivet, despite living so close to OC. In her graphic design classes at community college, Hannah dove into computer courses and became familiar with design programs, but felt like something was missing – foundational art skills and personal connections.

“I felt like I was floating in an ocean at community college. I didn’t have relationships with my professors or feel sure about my career,” Hannah admitted. “My sister, Vicki, was attending Olivet and loved it. She finally convinced me to check it out for myself, and my first time in admissions they told me, we can make this happen. I was so excited for my future to come into focus.”

Even before the start of her first semester, Hannah was experiencing the power of building a close relationship with her professor, Gary Wertheimer. She reached out to Professor Wertheimer while battling an injury and expressed her concerns about scheduling classes. Without hesitation, Professor Wertheimer offered to register classes for Hannah, and worked together with her to guarantee she was confident in her schedule.

“Right away I started experiencing the great support system you are part of at Olivet College,” Hannah said. “Since then, I’ve only become closer with both Professor Wertheimer and Thia Eller, assistant professor of art. I see them both as brilliant artists and wonderful role models, and they are always striving to provide opportunities for growth to students.”

Each year, the Visual Arts Department selects an art student to receive the Justus W. Cohoe Art Scholarship and Evelyn Gray Anderson Memorial Workshop and Travel Scholarship. During the 2016-17 academic year, Hannah’s hard work and dedication payed off, and she was chosen for the opportunity. Even as a graphic design major, Hannah always recognized the importance of a strong foundation in fine arts. Further, she has admired Italian art and culture, part of her heritage, for as long as she can remember. Hannah jumped at the chance to use her scholarships to study figure drawing at the Florence Academy of Art in Florence, Italy.

“I was in pure shock,” Hannah admitted when she learned she had earned the scholarships. “It was a dream come true, but it still felt like there were so many obstacles to overcome. I had to defend myself many times about why I was using my scholarships to study charcoal drawing instead of graphic design. Looking back, I am beyond confident I made the right decision because going back to the basics was so beneficial to me. Learning how to do everything over again in a new way has given me twice the foundation on which to build the rest of my skills.”

After months of anticipation, planning and organizing, Hannah found herself on a plane destined for Italy. By the time she landed in Italy, Hannah found out jet lag is real, and she was instantly overwhelmed with culture shock, feeling lost not speaking the language, not understanding directions or knowing where to go. “I thought I was prepared for the trip, but I don’t think anyone can prepare you for the intensity of international travel,” Hannah explained. “Starting my class was the same way. I was prepared to feel a little intimidated, but I had my supplies and was ready to take on the challenge. Almost immediately, I was knocked off balance. In my classes at OC, we are encouraged to use a form that feels comfortable to us. In Italy, it was a different style of learning. I loved it, but it was still difficult relearning almost everything about drawing.”

Hannah’s drawings were too detailed, something she never thought she’d hear. Priding herself on her hard work ethic, Hannah followed her teacher’s instruction and began measuring her figure and slowly prepping her paper, before focusing on the outline, shadows and contrast. From her first major drawing to her last, both Hannah and her professor noticed an immense improvement.

Part of the class also included exploring the heart of Florence. The class visited the Duomo, Galleria dell’Accademia and many other museums and basilicas. One of Hannah’s favorite parts of the experience was learning about Michelangelo’s rise to fame, and noting that his path was not always smooth. At times, one of the most renowned artists of all time struggled and was written off as a failure early in his career. This inspired Hannah to continue her studies and always believe in herself, with the motivation that if Michelangelo could handle criticism on a mass scale, Hannah can withstand her teachers’ tough critiques too.

“I appreciated the whole experience so much,” Hannah said on a serious note. “I didn’t realize I would appreciate the hard times so much, but I learned from them the most and have grown so much because of them. Going on this trip has opened my eyes to the broader art community and fueled me to become a better and more confident artist. Now, I’m energized to share that with others. The scholarships helped make it possible for me to tremendously improve my art skills, but also solidified my career goals, helped me recognize my potential and gave me the courage to believe in myself no matter what.”

Hannah is eager to bring her new skills and confidence into the classroom and tackle assignments in a new way. She knows her Italy experiences will play a huge role in shaping her future, and she can’t wait to see what that holds.

Learn more about the visual arts programs at OC, and schedule a visit or apply now to launch your college journey. Contact an admissions rep at 800.456.7189 or admissions@olivetcollege.edu for questions or personal guidance.

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