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HAS Student Wins Prestigious Fulbright Fellowship
Shpanin at an exhibit of his work, titled ''Abolished Memories," at the Westfield State University Art Gallery in Massachusetts (Photo by Michael S. Gordon of The Republican).
Stass Shpanin, a graduating senior majoring in painting in the Hartford Art School, has received a highly prestigious U.S. Fulbright Student Award, which will fund his 10-month, self-directed research project in Russia. The artwork he hopes to create during his fellowship, which begins in September, will focus on recapturing the history of pre-World War I Russia.
Shpanin is the first University of Hartford student in recent history to accept a Fulbright Fellowship.
The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government, supporting opportunities for students, scholars, and professionals to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and teaching in schools worldwide.
In addition to Shpanin, Hartford Art School alumna Chotsani Elaine Dean also has been selected for a Fulbright award for 2012-13. Dean, an instructor of art and ceramics at Three Rivers Community College in Norwich, Conn., will teach art and conduct research this fall at Banaras Hindu University in Varanasi, India.
Capturing the History of 19th Century Russia
Shpanin plans to spend his time in Russia exploring archives, interviewing historians and surrounding himself with the memories and events of pre-World War I imperialistic Europe. This research will be the conduit for a series of paintings that will re-conceptualize the history of Russia that was lost during the Communist Revolution and two world wars.
“As a visual journalist, I want to show that history is not a distant patch of true facts, but a living organism with human characteristics,” Shpanin said. “It is a study of human actions by other humans being constantly edited, added, and, in some tragic cases such as the Holocaust, deleted. Today, it is especially important to realize that we are responsible for not only present and future, but for all three dimensions of time.”
Shpanin, who is currently a resident of Agawam, Mass., was born in Baku, Azerbaijan (a former republic of the Soviet Union) and began studying and producing art at a very early age. In 2002, at the age of 12, Shpanin was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the Youngest Professional Artist in the World. By that time, he had already exhibited in 10 solo shows throughout the world, including Israel, Russia, Italy, Azerbaijan, England, France, and the United States.
The winner of numerous art competitions, Shpanin won the 2002 International Grand Prize at the “River of Words” environmental poetry and art contest conducted in affiliation with the U.S. Library of Congress.
In 2005, Shpanin and his family moved from Azerbaijan to the United States, settling in western Massachusetts. Since 2008, Shpanin has been a student at the University of Hartford’s Hartford Art School, where he has won numerous awards and scholarships, including the Alan Tompkins Scholarship Award, the Wilmarth-Rabineau Scholarship Award, the Anna Ball Pierce Scholarship Award, and an Artistic Merit Scholarship.
Shpanin has been exhibiting his work throughout his four years at the University of Hartford. His works are on display in numerous public and private collections, including the collections of President Heydar Aliev of Azerbaijan and former U.S. President George W. Bush.
Shpanin is looking forward to the people he will meet and connections he will make while attending embassy events and conferences in Russia. Fulbright recipients act as U.S. ambassadors while abroad, promoting the international exchange of ideas and understanding.
Upon his return to the United States next year, Shpanin intends to pursue graduate school and has already been approached by museums that want to exhibit the work he completes in Russia.
Shpanin said he is extremely grateful for the efforts of Director of International Studies Sarah Reuter for helping him with all aspects of the application process for the Fulbright Fellowship. He also said he could not have achieved this goal without the help and support of his professors and classmates at the Hartford Art School.
You can read more about Shpanin, and see more of his work, on his website, www.artstassworld.com.