Redford Scholars 2016

On March 9 at Santa Fe University of Art and Design’s Marion Center for Photographic Arts, 17 students gathered with actor-filmmaker and philanthropist Robert Redford, artist Sibylle Szaggars-Redford and the scholarship’s program director, Kathleen Broyles. These talented and hard-working students are Redford Scholars, recipients of the Emerging Artist scholarship from the Robert Redford / Milagro Initiative Scholarship Program for 2016, and were asked to come together to meet Redford and tell the stories of their journeys to SFUAD.

Robert Redford Speaks to the Robert Redford Emerging Artist Scholarship Recipients, During a reception in the Marion Center. Photo by Jesus Trujillo

The evening began with Redford and Szaggars-Redford explaining their paths to the arts. Redford shared an anecdote from the third grade, about how he would sneakily draw under his desk during class (because, he said, “back then art was a trivial pursuit”) until his teacher caught him and used that to help him be a better student and grow his artistic endeavors. German-born Szaggars-Redford said she was “born to be an artist” and that “art has always been a savior and a best friend” for her.

Many of the Scholars felt similarly driven and comforted by the arts, no matter their backgrounds. Some were raised in artistic families; others didn’t pursue the arts until after other pursuits such as architecture or the army; and others had to cross many borders for their art to be accepted. These diverse artists, working in different and/or multiple disciplines, hailed from right here in Santa Fe to other states, to Nicaragua, to Hungary, to Syria. At the event, each student described the projects that earned their Redford scholarships and brought them to SFUAD. The project could be in any medium, but had to express an appreciation for the environment or the role of art in creating positive social change, with the final pieces ranging from murals about bullying, documentaries, photojournalism on unheard voices, paintings, experimental films on displacement and culture, essays, songs about positive social change, photography and dance performances.

Robert Redford scholars gather around to speak and listen to each others experiences during the application process. Photo by Jesus Trujillo.

While the stories and backgrounds themselves were as unique as the individuals, the sentiment driving them was not: art is a part of the world at large, and in creating their work, the Scholars want to give voices to their communities, tell stories that need to be heard, create opportunities and connect with people. These students are very aware and motivated by their role as artists in the world community: Many are like Contemporary Music Program major Madeline Jimenez who asks herself, “What do I have to offer to tell stories and connect?” Just as many of them already have grander plans. For instance, Film School student Aaron Vaquera wants to make a film in his small Texas town to bring opportunities to young artists there; Arts Management major Carlos Moreno wants to facilitate opportunities for LGBT+ and POC artists; and others are already touring musicians, interning for Artists in Residence and even advising on Sundance projects.

Theater major Kobi Kyles (Center) speaks to fellow Redford scholarship recipients in the Marion Center for Photographic Arts. Photo by Jesus Trujillo.

This event occurs annually to celebrate the Redford scholars so that they, and the Redfords, can connect with each other. The Redfords have always been invested in improving the human experience with art, and supporting arts education and opportunities through the Sundance Institute, Way of the Rain, Inc. and the Redford/Milagro Initiative Scholarship Program. Redford feels that meeting these student-artists is important because “listening is just as important as doing.” Szaggars-Redford agreed, and resonantly concluded at the end of the meeting: “No matter what art form, it is a wonderful way to speak freely. Art is the only free language.”


The Robert Redford / Milagro Initiative Scholarship Program has been awarding exceptional applicants annually since 2013 and includes two scholarships: the Unique Voice scholarship for film students and the Emerging Artist scholarship. This program promotes underrepresented storytelling voices and is committed to supporting artists who want to make the world a better place. More information about this scholarship program can be found here.