The bigger picture

Scholarship gives graduate student the materials and confidence to take her art to the next level

By Brelyn Powell


After she earned her bachelor’s from Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, Massachusetts, in 2007, Beatrice Modisett (M.F.A.’16/A) remained in her college town, immersing herself in her craft. She spent her days painting, showing, teaching and running an art gallery and studio. When she moved to Richmond, Virginia, in 2014 to begin her graduate education at Virginia Com­monwealth University’s School of the Arts, the Rhode Island native worried at first if she would flourish as an artist in her new setting.

“I really thrived where I was because I had a lot of support,” Modisett says. “I wondered if I could achieve the same amount of success in this larger environment.”

She quickly found her stride, though. In fact, in April 2015, Modisett was awarded the Covington Travel Scholarship, an annual scholarship for undergraduate and graduate students in the School of the Arts.

Recipients of the scholarship are selected based on merit. Can­didates must demonstrate outstanding discipline, work ethic and academic performance.

With two gifts of $25,000, Josée Covington, president and chief executive officer of Covington Travel, established Covington Travel Scholarships in the schools of Arts and Business in 1996. She knew how helpful financial support had been for her husband, William D. Covington, D.D.S. (D.D.S.’62/D), as a student at the VCU School of Dentistry, and she wanted to provide the same support to young artists and business students.

“It’s a great thing to know that I am helping students,” Covington says. “Everyone needs support when they are young and talented.”

To show her gratitude for the award, Modisett wrote a letter to Covington.

“I explained to her that I was realizing that I could thrive in a new place and that VCU was incredible,” Modisett says. “Her scholarship gave me confidence that people were there to help and support me.”

Covington has received many letters of appreciation over the years, but Modisett’s genuine gratitude intrigued her. She visit­ed the artist at her studio, where she fell in love with a painting, “Dendritics.” She purchased the painting that day, and it now hangs in the Covington Travel office in Glen Allen, Virginia.

“It’s great knowing a painting is going to someone who really loves it and will care for and appreciate it,” Modisett says. “For someone as accomplished as Josée to respond to my work is amazing.”

The artist also showed Covington another piece, the largest painting she had ever created. “Tidal” was the direct result of the scholarship.

“When I received the scholarship, I knew I could afford to make an 8-by-10-foot canvas and use the nice pigments that I’d always wanted to use without worrying about being [financially] prac­tical,” Modisett says. “I don’t think I could have made that piece without the scholarship.”

“Tidal” was a pivotal accomplishment in Modisett’s growth as an artist. “It was the hinge piece between the work I was doing before and the work I’m doing now,” says Modisett, who has continued to produce and sell large-canvas paintings.

“In order to excel in their work, artists need opportunity to experiment and discover their unique form of art,” says Julia Carr, executive director of development for the School of the Arts. “Awards like this allow our students to be powerful and creative.”

Recently, “Tidal” and another of Modisett’s paintings, “Aftermath,” were purchased for inclusion in the Try-me Collec­tion in Richmond, Virginia, a versatile showing space for artists and art educators.

Modisett finished her master’s program this May and is now liv­ing in Brooklyn, New York. She has set up a studio in Long Island City, where she plans to keep painting and producing art. And this time, she says she is confident that she will continue to find success in her new setting.

Additional reporting by Kathleen Reid.

To learn more about the School of the Arts, contact Julia Carr, executive director of development, at (804) 828-4676 or