On June 9, 2009, Fleisher
awarded The Ella King Torrey Young Artist Prize to Brianna Tadeo. The Prize honors Ella King Torrey (1957-2003), whose passionate support for individual artists helped reinvigorate the arts in Philadelphia starting in the 1980s. The Prize celebrates Ella's joy, excitement and commitment to artists by encouraging exceptional teenaged students at Fleisher. An award of $1,000 is given to one young artist each year to support his or her continued development in the arts and increase exposure to opportunities in the arts. In making this gift, her mother, Ella R. Torrey, said, “I thought helping a young artist at Fleisher was the perfect match for Ella King's love and knowledge of artists and all the varieties of their artistic expression.” Ms. Torrey presented the award to Ms. Tadeo, a budding artist and photographer, at the June 9th ceremony. Ms. Tadeo will use the prize to pay for art supplies while she attends a pre-college program at the University of the Arts this summer.
Ms. Tadeo, 18, has been attending Fleisher since 2003, when she first enrolled in a tuition-free class offered on Saturdays. Over the next few years, Fleisher became a sanctuary for her: “When I first started to take classes at Fleisher, my parents were separating. I was angry and a little scared. Sometimes it was hard to be at home. Fleisher was a place to get away from all of that. I found real comfort in art.” As she accepted her award, Ms. Tadeo also described the important role that art has played in her education. Diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of seven, Ms. Tadeo found that art provided her with a learning mode that did not require reading or writing. “Art became my voice,” she explained, and after taking every course Fleisher offered to children and teens, she began to volunteer as an assistant in the same classes where she had once participated as a student.
In 2007, Ms. Tadeo took her art-making experience one step further by joining Fleisher's free Teen Lounge after-school program. As a part of the Fleisher Teen Lounge, Ms. Tadeo worked with her peers to design a request-for-proposals that was distributed to local artists, inviting them to develop ideas for short-term art projects. After receiving many excellent ideas for projects, the Lounge participants collaborated to select the seven proposals that most appealed to them, including silkscreen, photography, sewing, drawing, painting, and cartooning. Despite extensive experience in art classes, Ms. Tadeo found that the Teen Lounge offered her something new: a unique level of autonomy to choose her own learning path. “Teen Lounge is a really inspiring place to be because there is an open feeling and you can create whatever you want to. It feels completely free.”
As a student in the University of the Arts' pre-college program, Ms. Tadeo will take four intensive courses: advanced black-and-white photography, color photography, experimental photography, and drawing. “The work that I create during this experience, along with the pieces that I have made at Fleisher, will prepare me to apply to college art programs next fall,” she explained. Ms. Tadeo feels “extremely grateful” to have been selected as the Prize's 2009 recipient. “It will really help out with expenses this summer. And it gave me the confidence that I can be a successful artist, which is an awesome feeling.”
Ella R. Torrey described how pleased she was to present the award to Ms. Tadeo, who “reminds her of Ella, a bright, creative, funny young woman.” Ella King Torrey's work in the arts was always unique, beginning with her senior thesis at Yale University on the cultural significance of the Barbie™ doll and extending to graduate work on women folk artists and the African American quilters in the South. She began her professional career at the Pew Charitable Trusts and later established the Pew Fellowships in the Arts, considered the most prestigious measure of accomplishment for artists in the region. From 1995 to 2002, Ella was president of the San Francisco Art Institute, where she raised the school's national and international profile, grew its endowment and renovated and expanded its landmark building. Ella King also had a great sense of fun. She often told student audiences that in addition to her ‘serious’ jobs, she had been “a waitress, a studio assistant, an artists' model, and once had a job hopping around the Liberty Bell in a Bugs Bunny outfit.”