HAA Student Awarded the 2023 Gloria Tovar Lee Scholarship

Photograph of Jonah Gomez Cabrera. Shows a smiling individual in a white shirt and short hair.

Every year, the Department of the History of Art and Architecture (HAA) awards the Glovia Tovar Lee Scholarship for the most promising student in Art History to one undergraduate major in sophomore- or junior-standing student who demonstrates excellence in the classroom and exhibits promise to excel in the field of art history. 

Established in 2003 by Robert Lee, PhD ’66 (English) and Gloria Tovar Lee, the Gloria Tovar Lee Scholarship supports undergraduate and graduate students in art history. Last year's promising scholarship recipient is Jonah Gómez Cabrera, who is graduating in 2025 with a double major in Art History and Art. Originally from Mexico City, Cabrera originally had a different plan for their undergraduate studies.

"I am originally from Mexico City, Mexico, and migrated to Oregon with my parents when I was around 11," explained Cabrera. "I came to the University of Oregon (UO) [intending] to solely focus on my Art degree and as I kept attending more art history courses, I began showing more interest towards the major. I have always shown interest in social studies or anything relating to history. I felt it was meant to happen eventually and decided to go forward with my double major."

Cabrera's upbringing was a multicultural experience and that influence has been felt throughout their time at UO. 

"I have had the opportunity to live in various countries growing up and have been able to offer a multicultural point of view and add more context to my area of interest in Latin American art [or art from Latin America]," said Cabrera. "I can achieve a deeper level of connection towards Latin American artists. As a first-generation student and immigrant, I have empowered [my peers] to pursue a greater level of cultural competence when learning about art that is not Western-focused."

The HAA faculty recognized Cabrera's overall excellence in their classes, and that their passion for art history would serve as a great example for all students in the field. Visiting Assistant Professor Victoria Ehrlich, Cabrera's nominator, was particularly effusive with her praise for the 2023 recipient.

"Jonah was very engaged in the subject matter and topics of discussion for [my] course, and was always prepared with excellent understanding of readings," explained Ehrlich. "His reading reflections demonstrated a level of critical thinking that will serve him well, and his midterm exam score, which had three essay questions, was near perfect. Jonah also expressed his passion for the arts of Latin America, and intends to take up an arts-related [...] with the hopes of eventually attending graduate school or working in the museum." 

Cabrera can point to two HAA faculty members who have helped fan his passion for art history and curation, Career Instructor Simone Ciglia and Cabrera's nominator, Victoria Ehrlich

Art exhibit photograph provided by Cabrera.

"[Professor] Ciglia has been my mentor for the last year and has supported me in gaining real-life experience in art curation, such as in my internship at the Portland Art Museum last summer. He truly challenges his students and I am no exception," said Cabrera. "I have come to admire his way of teaching as well as his time and consideration in helping me to improve my writing skills as a non-native English speaker. Professor Ehrlich will also always have a special place in my heart. Her compassion and passion for art from Latin America motivated me to work harder for the things that I love when I was going through a difficult part of my life. Both professors made me look forward to attending classes and brought further joy to learning, every day." 

Special consideration for the Gloria Tovar Lee Scholarship is given to those students who devote study to either the JSMA or the Museum of Natural History and Culture. Cabrera contends that the JSMA is one of the best resources on the campus for those interested in art. 

"My greatest learning experiences at [UO] have always come from the JSMA, one of the best resources every professor has shown me. The astonishing collections that the museum holds are an essential tool for appreciating artworks, objects, and more within an intimate distance," explained Cabrera. "One can make greater analysis and research when seeing them in person rather than in a computer. Going more often to the JSMA has also taught me different ways of curating a space as well as proper art handling."

Cabrera was surprised by the nomination and win, and is encouraged by the support. 

"Receiving the [Gloria Tovar] Lee Scholarship was a non-verbal way to say, 'keep going, we believe in you'. I was humbled by the way my professors spoke about me when I was nominated and [it] was validating to have others support my passion," said Cabrera. "It gave me the confidence I initially lacked and reassured me that I have an incredibly supportive department and university. It still gives me hope that my dream career is something worth pursuing."

Cabrera's future plans include pursuing a master's in art history, focusing more on art curation, or diving deeper into museology. 


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