When it came time to choose a college, Madison Hoppler ’24 opted for the financial security of the campus located practically in her backyard over a more focused pursuit of her creative passion at art school.
That decision meant she could attend UNH while living in her childhood home in Durham, studying art in hopes of forging a career in a creative space. But it also meant putting on hold her desire to explore the world more fully beyond the town she grew up in.
And all of that made her precisely the young woman Kelsy Stromski was looking for..
Stromski, owner and creative director of The Newburyport Studio and Favor the Brave in Newburyport, Massachusetts, is an avid traveler who wanted to give one young woman in New England between the ages of 18 and 22 who is interested in or pursuing a degree in a creative field the opportunity of a lifetime – the chance to travel anywhere in the world.
So Stromski created the Favor the Brave travel scholarship and asked entrants to submit a simple application – a postcard depicting their desire or inspiration to travel in a creative format of their choosing. Hoppler illustrated a landscape in Italy.
One she’ll be seeing up close this summer after being chosen as the winner.
“Honestly being able to sit in a chair or have my easel in Florence and just be able to paint – it’s a dream, for any art student,” Hoppler, an art major with a concentration in painting, says. “I’ve always wanted to travel to other places in the world, but I haven’t had the means to. When I found out, I was so overwhelmed but so incredibly grateful.”
Stromski narrowed the field of about 50 entrants to 10 finalists and asked them all to submit a short video making their case for the scholarship. Hoppler said she explained her decision to pass on art school – despite having been accepted to a few – to stay at home for financial reasons, as well as her passion for art and desire to travel.
Stromski was sold.
“All of the entries were incredibly deserving, but it came down to the fact that Madison clearly has a natural talent and unique technique to her work,” Stromski says. “And her story of being from a small town and never having the opportunity to really travel internationally before resonated a lot with me, because I’m from a small town, too, and it wasn’t until I had the opportunity to travel that my world really got bigger quickly.”
By winning the scholarship Hoppler received one round-trip ticket anywhere she wanted, as well as a $1,000 Airbnb gift card – because Stromski wanted the winner to have an immersive experience among locals rather than staying at a resort – and a $500 Visa gift card to cover expenses.
Stromski hooked Hoppler up even more once she learned her destination, connected Hoppler with a painter friend in Florence who will be welcoming Hoppler for a workshop there. Stromski also offered Hoppler the opportunity to promote and sell her artwork with a one-day gallery show at The Newburyport Studio when she is ready upon her return.
“She really went above and beyond,” Hoppler says of Stromski. “It’s so amazing that she’s giving me this opportunity.”
Hoppler found a creative way to extend her Italian experience, too. After spending the solo time in Florence thanks to Stromski’s scholarship, she will link up with a UNH study abroad group that will allow her to visit places like Sicily, Venice and others. She’ll be in Italy from May 22 to June 30.
Hoppler has always had a passion for art, and though she doesn’t know the exact direction her career will take, she’d like to be involved in creative marketing, perhaps utilizing her skills in art and graphic design as a creative director. But painting and making her own art is something she knows “is in my future somehow.”
She is looking forward to finding inspiration in Italy, which was an easy choice for her destination, even with an entire globe to choose from.
“That’s the place I want to go most out of anywhere in the world,” she says. “There’s just such a rich art history that resides there, and it’s such an inspiration to me as a painter.”
That’s precisely what prompted Stromski to offer the scholarship to young women in such a particular age range. She said may expand the applicant pool beyond New England next year, but she doesn’t have any plans to adjust the age range.
“I just think those years are such a pivotal time in someone’s life to be able to have the opportunity to travel and find yourself and figure out what you want to explore and learn,” Stromski says.
Hoppler wasn’t expecting to be the first recipient of such an opportunity, mostly because such an experience never felt like anything but a fantasy.
“When she called to tell me, I just started crying. I was freaking out, because it really is a dream come true,” Hoppler says.