School of Art, Art History & Design senior earns a Gilman Scholarship to study abroad in Spain

Luis Martinez stands in front of his painting titled “Flojeando,” in the Richards Hall painting studio.
Luis Martinez stands in front of his painting titled “Flojeando,” in the Richards Hall painting studio.

School of Art, Art History & Design senior earns a Gilman Scholarship to study abroad in Spain

calendar icon12 Dec 2018    user iconBy Kathe C. Andersen

Lincoln, Neb.--Luis Martinez, a senior art major in the School of Art, Art History & Design, is one of two University of Nebraska–Lincoln students to be awarded a Gilman Scholarship for the spring semester and will study abroad in Spain.

The U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship is a grant program that enables students of limited financial means to study or intern abroad and to gain skills critical to our national security and economic competitiveness.

This nationally competitive scholarship is awarded three times a year. The late Congressman Gilman, for whom the scholarship is named, served in the House of Representatives for 30 years and chaired the House Foreign Relations Committee.

The only other University of Nebraska–Lincoln student to receive it this spring is Connor McFayden from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, who will study abroad in India.

“I’m speechless,” Martinez said of receiving the award. “Personally, I don’t think I’m a very good writer, so I did spend a lot of time on the Gilman [application] and revising it. I’m glad the work I put in came out successfully.”

Martinez will leave Jan. 27 to study for the spring semester in Sevilla, Spain.

“For sure, I’ll be there for one full semester, and then I’ll be staying for the summer with money I’ve been saving up,” he said.

Associate Professor of Art Sandra Williams said Martinez has been resourceful to get opportunities to study abroad.

“Luis has always been smart about utilizing all the resources that are available to him and is never shy about reaching out for mentorship to help him achieve his goals,” she said. “He couples his talent with resourcefulness and has been able to study abroad almost every year. We have wonderful funding through both the college and university. These scholarships, like the Hixson-Lied and Early Abroad scholarships, are so valuable because they widen and diversify the academic pipeline when it comes to special opportunities like this as we prepare our students to become global citizens.”

Williams said Laura Damuth, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Director of National and International Fellowships, provided valuable assistance to Martinez on his application for the Gilman.

“The competition is intense because it is a national award. I worked with Luis, but Laura Damuth was invaluable in this process,” Williams said. “While this process starts with student ambition, having a faculty advocate to connect them with the robust mentorship resources we offer on campus is essential.”

Martinez’s previous travel abroad experience influenced his decision to apply for the Gilman. He first traveled to Greece with Professor of Art History Michael Hoff’s course, “Greek Odyssey: A Classical Journey Summer Study Abroad.”

“I wanted this kind of European experience,” he said. “I didn’t want to go to Tokyo or this really advanced technological area. I wanted kind of an old style.”

He also studied in Italy with School of Art, Art History & Design Director and Professor Francisco Souto, taking his course, “Florence and Venice: Interdisciplinary Art and Culture” last summer.

“I wasn’t planning on doing another trip right after Greece, but the class that was offered was really kind of exactly what I wanted,” he said. “I took printmaking while I was there, so along with the class and the museums, the town of Florence is amazing—the landscapes, everything.”

Souto said Martinez is a “wonderful student,” who is always seeking opportunities to enhance his education and his artistic abilities.

“He has a very strong work ethic and mature conduct expected from a student who is self-directed and ready to be challenged,” Souto said. “I truly believe receiving a national Gilman Scholarship will widen his already cultivated worldview and, consequently, his artistic and academic career.”

Those experiences helped guide him to the program in Spain for this trip.

“For some reason, right before I entered college, I had the thought of just traveling abroad,” Martinez said. “And I just really enjoyed Italy. After my program was done, I took a trip by myself and went to Madrid, Spain, and I really enjoyed the atmosphere. As an artist, I have studied a lot of Spanish painters. So I thought I’d choose that.”

He’ll be taking 12 credit hours in a studio program at the University of Sevilla.

“Because he is bilingual, he is able to have a more intensive studio experience that is not available to those who are not fluent,” Williams said.

Martinez believes this experience will help him with his future goals.

“I’ll definitely get some travel experience, which I think I really need because I want to do residencies and things of that sort when I’m out and maybe even go for a master’s degree abroad,” Martinez said. “Museums are a big thing for me because I just get a lot out of it. They influence me for what I want to do. And actually, I’m really interested to see the way my work here gets feedback compared to in Europe. I want to see that difference or comparison.”

Martinez was born in Phoenix, Arizona, and lived there and in Mexico before coming to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln to study art in the School of Art, Art History & Design.

“I heard from my art professor that they had a really good art program, and I also received the [Susan T.] Buffett scholarship, so that kind of pushed me to choose UNL,” he said.

Martinez has always had an interest in art, but really discovered his passion in high school.

“About my junior year in high school, I started taking a lot of art classes,” he said. “By the time I graduated I was just there spending my whole time doing art after class, so I knew pretty early on what I wanted to do.”

He says he finds art to be stress relieving.

“And also, you just have the chance to express yourself without it being verbal, which is kind of nice,” he said.

His current work focuses on painting scenes that reflect his culture.

“I do scenes and portraits of family tradition and culture,” he said. “I want to understand the relationship between Mexican-Americans and society today.”

When he returns from Spain, he hopes next year to organize an exhibition in the MEDICI Gallery in Richards Hall to share his experience.

Martinez thinks the study abroad experience is important.

“I think you definitely need to get that different experience, too. I don’t know whether to humble yourself or just get a different sense of culture,” he said. “I think it’s really important that you’re not stuck to one particular area. It just gives you a chance to experience the world.”