The Ellen Hansen Memorial Prize is awarded annually to a UC Davis female student whose original creative project – using any medium, from painting to poetry or dance – best presents the theme of bravery and independence in women. A reception announcing the winner and honorable mentions was held Tuesday.
Emily Barker, a senior art studio major, won the grand prize for her painting “True Love,“ a tribute to her opera singer mother.
“I wanted to show her when she’s truly in her element,“ Barker said. “With her portrait, I tried to capture her passion for singing, using my passion for painting.“
The $1,000 prize is named for the former UC Davis student, Ellen Hansen, who was killed in 1981 while hiking in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Hansen‘s resistance to her attacker allowed her companion to escape and survive. Her murderer was later dubbed the “Trailside Killer.“
Ellen‘s father, Robert J. Hansen, an emeritus UC Davis professor of veterinary medicine established the annual award in 1986 to encourage the creative endeavors of other female students. Ellen was a talented artist, musician and poet.
“Ellen was a very courageous young woman who was interested in art in all its forms,“ said Peg Swain, co-director of the Women’s Resources and Research Center and judging coordinator of the memorial prize. “Her father felt that she embodied bravery and independence in the way she lived her life as well as in her death – so he took this tragic situation to promote and celebrate her life and character.“
Barker said that in the context of her painting, bravery and independence means being willing to take the path less traveled.
“As [an] artist, people are always sort of looking down on you for pursuing your passion – there is no one path that guarantees success, like say, if you were to study to be a doctor,“ Barker said. “My mother is a creative person who has always pursued what she loves doing and has encouraged me to do the same.“
All UC Davis female students – undergraduate, graduate and professional school students – who are in enrolled and in good academic standing in both winter and spring quarters, are eligible to apply for the annual award.
Around 40 entries were put on display in a special exhibit in the MU Gallery on May 6, which continues until today. The judging committee consisted of a group of faculty members, comprising all areas of art, who were required to agree on one piece for their grand prize selection.
“It always impresses me every year that a consensus is reached,“ said Adrienne Wonhof, event coordinator for the memorial prize and assistant director at the WRRC. “As much as they look for overall excellence, they really take seriously that the message is evident in the art.“
There were three honorable mentions: A comic book by Anna Hamilton, titled Invisibly Ill: Toward a Feminist Theory of Invisible Illness and Disability, an untitled series of music selections by Jessica Benjano and a dance performance piece by Randee Paufve, “Spasm: as you perceive the edge of yourself at the moment of desire.“
“Of all the events we do every year, this one is my favorite – it is very moving and touching,“ Wonhof said. “It‘s amazing that [Robert Hansen] continues to encourage and inspire women even more than 20 years later.“
SONIA PARECADAN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.