Stass Shpanin, a senior painting major in the Hartford Art School at the University of Hartford, recently found out that he 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 to receive and accept a Fulbright Fellowship to study overseas.
The Fulbright Fellowship Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government that supports opportunities for students, scholars, and professionals to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and teaching in schools worldwide.
Shpanin plans to spend his time in Russia exploring archives, interviewing historians and surrounding himself with the memories and events of pre-World War 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,” he 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. The Guinness Book of World Records named him the World's Youngest Professional Artist to have his paintings purchased and displayed by museums, galleries, and private col-lections at the age of 12.
Shpanin has been a student at the University of Hartford’s Hartford Art School since 2008, 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. In 2003, he earned an International Grand Prize in the “River of Words” arts contest affiliated with the U.S. Library of Congress.
He is looking forward to the people he will meet and connections he will make while attending embassy events and conferences. 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 who want to exhibit the work he completes in Russia.
He is extremely thankful for the efforts of Sarah Reuter, head of the University’s International Center for helping him with all aspects of application process for the Fulbright Fellowship. He also said he could not have achieved this goal without the help and support of his faculty and classmates at the Hartford Art School.