April 27, 2018

For nearly a decade, the James R. Hopes Art Scholarship has helped UCF students pursuing art careers continue to chase their dreams. Among this year’s three recipients of the $3,000 award is Trevon Jakaar Coleman, a painter and filmmaker with an unconventional story who is putting Mr. Hopes’ scholarship to good use.

Trevon Jakaar Coleman: Making art with a mission

Coleman was a caricature artist at theme parks before starting his postsecondary education at UCF. But even while creating exaggerated portraits of strangers, he learned what he wanted to convey through his art. “My work became about the interaction with myself and the person I’m drawing,” said Coleman. “I connected with my subjects through conversations on self-esteem and image, and those ideas of perception, representation and identity ending up transferring into my studio art practice.”

These concepts are still evident in Coleman’s work. His scholarship-winning piece? A self-portrait. However, the painting tells a bigger story than what viewers might initially perceive — and that was Coleman’s goal.

Created for his Advanced Painting class, the self-portrait made its debut in a three-part, multi-layered installation; the painting was placed behind a clear sheet that had more details painted onto it, while a projector cast abstract colors onto the entire composition. According to Coleman, the full installation represents how people put their expectations and perceptions on someone without first seeing the bigger picture. “It also connects to the history of Black representation in art,” said Coleman. “So, my self-portrait started a dialogue about what is expected when you see not just a Black artist, but a Black person.” The piece has a complex story—just like Coleman himself.

Coleman turned to UCF to receive a traditional arts education, but also to learn a new medium. Thus, he is working toward a B.F.A. in Film in addition to a degree in Studio Art. “I see film as being a way to say things that I can’t say with paint, and painting as a way to say something I can’t with film,” said Coleman. “But once I put the two sides together, there’s a conversation that happens between them. Being able to explore that multimodal interaction at UCF has been a great joy.”

However, a double degree is a financial decision not to be taken lightly. That is why the J.R. Hopes Art Scholarship is changing the game for Coleman and allowing him to keep moving toward his future aspirations, which are to undertake honors in his majors, attend graduate school and then teach at the university level. As a college professor, Coleman plans to give back and engage with the arts community.

“The J.R. Hopes Scholarship is giving me the chance to focus on art-making and not have to worry about financial constraints,” said Coleman. “It’s a relief because, when it comes down to it, how much time I put into my work will directly correlate with what my portfolio looks like, and a strong portfolio will allow me to get into art galleries and have people view my work. It’s immeasurable how much of an impact this scholarship is going to have on my ability to further myself and my goals.”

Coleman is honored to receive the scholarship and thankful that someone thought to endow a scholarship for art students such as himself. “To have Mr. Hopes continue to support the arts in this way and emphasize how arts have the ability to make society better is amazing,” said Coleman.

For Hopes, a businessman turned avid arts supporter, skilled and driven students like Coleman are what make sponsoring the scholarship so infinitely rewarding.

James R. Hopes: Inspiring young artists to persevere

While Hopes spent most of his career in business, he always had a passion for the arts. After achieving success as a top executive at Time Warner-AOL, he decided to finally embrace his interests by helping art students follow their dreams.

“I always said to myself that if I ever became successful, I would give back to other people whose true passion is the arts” said Hopes.

With this desire in mind, Hopes discovered UCF after moving to Orlando. He approached the UCF Foundation with the idea for the James R. Hopes Art Scholarship and since then has provided financial aid to more than thirty SVAD students.

Along with viewing the creative submissions, Hopes enjoys meeting and learning the stories of the students who receive his scholarships.

“Every single student has been a joy to get to know better. Hearing about their hopes for the future, the different cultures they come from and the experiences they’ve had has truly inspired me,” said Hopes.

By awarding these annual scholarships, Hopes wants to encourage emerging artists like Coleman to strive for their goals no matter what odds they may face — a cause he believes is worth every penny.

“It’s important to give validation and encouragement to these young artists. By receiving an unbiased opinion on their art from a committee of experts, we’re showing them that they really do have a gift and a great vision that people believe in,” said Hopes. “We’re letting them know that this is what they’re meant to be doing.”

Visit scholarships.cah.ucf.edu/hopes to view the winning submissions and learn more about Mr. Hopes’ scholarship, which will be celebrating its 10th anniversary next year.