In 2005, Gwendolyn Marinos, a friend and champion of KCAI, set up a scholarship in honor of her aunt, Elise Hoelzel. Hoelzel was born in 1897 in Kansas City, Mo., and displayed an artistic talent at a young age. As a student at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, she was awarded the Cresson European Travel Scholarship and spent time studying art in Europe. After studying abroad, she came back to Kansas City and helped teach a master’s program alongside Thomas Hart Benton at KCAI.
Early in her career, Hoelzel worked part-time as a graphic artist doing illustrations for telephone books and was well-known for her portraiture work. After moving to California, Hoelzel continued to create art and exhibit her work throughout the La Jolla area. She passed away in 1976, at age 79.
In the late 1920s, Marinos moved to San Diego to live with Hoelzel. Marinos was inspired by her aunt not only for her talent and passion for art, but also because Hoelzel conquered many physical obstacles, having been born with spina bifida.
“She was just a wonderful example to follow, not only artistically but also personally,” Marinos said. “Though I was never a painter, my mother was an opera singer. The two sisters were very artistically inclined. Elise was there painting, and my mother was there singing.”
Despite her crippling condition, Hoelzel became a pilot, learned to sail and pursued art throughout her life. According to Susan Mar, Hoelzel’s great niece and Marinos’ niece, “She was just an amazing woman.”
“She won several awards,” said Mar of Hoelzel. “She was very diverse in her work; she did beautiful portraits and landscapes. She also did calligraphy, draftsman type work and shadow portraits. Nothing was beyond her.”
Marinos, now 95 and living in San Diego, felt that a scholarship at KCAI would be a fitting tribute to her talented and tenacious aunt. The Elise Hoelzel Scholarship helps painting students who have faced difficult obstacles in their lives.
As part of the oversight committee for the Elise Hoelzel Scholarship, both Marinos and Mar review applications and select the scholarship recipient. They chose Davin Roberson (junior, painting and art history) to be the 2015-2016 award recipient. According to Roberson, the scholarship means the world to him. “I’m grateful that the family decided to help fund my education,” he said.
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