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Two seniors receive Sudler Prize in the Arts for exceptional creativity

By Emma Yarbrough | Emory Report | April 29, 2020

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Seniors Gabi Davis and Lucy Wainger are Emory’s 2020 recipients of the Louis B. Sudler Prize in the Arts, recognizing their exceptional promise in the creative arts.

Emory students Gabi Davis and Lucy Wainger are Emory University’s 2020 recipients of the Louis B. Sudler Prize in the Arts, honoring the graduating senior or seniors who have demonstrated exceptional promise in the performing or creative arts.

The Sudler Prize, given annually at Emory and a select group of colleges across the nation, including Princeton, Duke and MIT, is accompanied by a $6,000 award. 

Gabi Davis: Making connections through photography 

Photographer Gabi Davis is the first Sudler Prize recipient to come from Emory College’s Integrated Visual Arts Co-major, a program allows undergraduate students to explore visual media and art making while developing creative skills in connection with a second major in any field of study at Emory. Davis completed the study alongside a major in human health. 

Using her research in fear and anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Davis created a portrait series documenting her peers and family members as they process emotions linked to fear, anxiety and the associated stigmas and treatments.

“The moments captured are between thoughts and words as these individuals grapple with their emotions,” explains Davis. 

In another project, the Atlanta native documents the effects of gentrification in one of Atlanta’s most famous historic areas, Auburn Avenue.

“The goal of this project was originally aimed at individual exploration of the city I call home and validation of the external displeasure I feel toward gentrification,” says Davis. However, as the series of portraits and interviews developed, the project turned into an outlet for both Davis and her subjects, exposing residents’ thoughts on the rapidly changing neighborhood around Auburn Avenue “and the ways they feel it affecting both their lives and their feelings toward their lives.”

“These two projects are a fantastic example of what the IVAC should strive for,” says Dana Haugaard, lecturer in visual arts. “Gabi thoughtfully and critically makes images that foster conversations and demand critical investigation. She is making connections across the academic spectrum and finding smart and engaging ways to tell her stories.” 

Following graduation, Davis will pursue a masters in integrative studies at Brown University, focusing on how illustration and digital aids and infographics can be used as helpful health care interventions.

“I am proud that she has been my student,” says Haugaard. “I know she will be an ambassador for the Emory arts community as she leaves campus to pursue her interests through creativity for the rest of her life.” 

Lucy Wainger: Writing award-winning poetry

Close followers of the Arts at Emory may be familiar with Lucy Wainger. The New York native’s poem “Scheherazade” was selected for the “The Best American Poetry 2017” and, that same year, her poem “Memorandum: September” won the Academy of American Poets Prize. During her undergraduate career, Wainger has seen her work printed in many prestigious publications, including Poetry, Puerto del Sol and Vinyl Poetry and Prose. 

Jericho Brown, Winship Distinguished Research Professor in Creative Writing and director of the Emory College Creative Writing Program, describes Wainger as “a poet of fierce juxtapositions and stark admissions that reconsider and reconcile the fragmented self and its position in the fragmented world.” 

“None of these stellar traits are a match for just how hard she works on her poems,” continues Brown, “and how much work she puts into revising them until they sing ever so precisely of the human condition and its constant movement between light and dark, grief and celebration.” 

“Receiving the Sudler feels like the ultimate validation of the literary work I’ve done while at Emory,” says Wainger. “It means so much to me to be recognized for what is, quite literally, the practice I organize my life around.” 

Wainger, who will pursue her MFA in poetry at University of Massachusetts Amherst in the fall, credits her Emory undergraduate experience with preparing her for a career as a professional writer and educator. 

“I’ll look back at my Emory education as a kind of apprenticeship. It’s taught me the fundamentals of diction, image, line and narrative, which I’ll carry with me for the rest of my writing life.”