As our friends at the Thea Foundation reimagine Into the Blue 2021 – An Online Experience, it’s important to realize the invaluable resources the organization provides to students throughout the state and the importance of arts education. We’re sharing features from our archives that reflect the mission fulfillment work of the Thea Foundation with urgency for continued support.
By Kim Meyer-Webb | Photography by Sara Blancett Reeves
Considered art in the fables of history, fashion heralds culture with social context that’s sometimes more compelling than traditional visual arts. The core of the Thea Foundation’s mission – arts advocacy as a critical component in the development of our youth – mirrors this innovative approach to artistic expression. Korto Momolu, world-renowned fashion designer and stylist, serves as one of four judges for the inaugural year of the Thea Foundation Fashion Design Scholarship Competition.
Established in 2001 as a legacy to Thea Leopoulus and her life, the Thea Foundation supports student artists through scholarships and workshops. Initially a visual arts scholarship awarded to high school seniors, Thea Scholarships has distributed $2 million across six categories. The newest category, fashion design, qualifies for this year’s competition and complements the other categories of visual arts, performing arts, creative writing, film and poetry slam. “As we considered diversification of our scholarship program, we remembered Thea’s adoration of fashion and realized it filters another unique niche of students,” explains Thea Foundation Co-Founder Paul Leopoulos.
Applicants must submit an artist statement and prepare a portfolio of three to five drawn designs as well as a final product for presentation at the Thea Foundation this spring. Each garment must be comprised of at least 75 percent recycled material. These designers are encouraged to draw inspiration from Curbside Couture – a unique opportunity for students to turn “trash into treasure” through fashion. Connie Fails, visionary for Curbside Couture notes, “Curbside Couture fosters self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-awareness in teens. Their positive energy illustrates the power of personal expression and certainly mirrors the vision of the Thea Foundation.”
Each garment must be comprised of at least 75 percent recycled material, drawing inspiration from Curbside Couture – a unique opportunity for students to transform “trash into treasure” through fashion designs. Connie Fails, visionary for Curbside Couture notes, “Curbside Couture fosters self-confidence, self-esteem and self-awareness in teens. Their positive energy illustrates the power of personal expression and certainly mirrors the vision of the Thea Foundation.” Also a judge for the competition, friend Connie Fails introduced Korto to the Thea Foundation. “The Thea Foundation is a voice for the powerful influence of arts in education,” explains Korto. “Students gain confidence through creative expression that inspires greatness.”
Korto remembers the act of kindness that set her life on track. Her family escaped war-torn Liberia in 1990 and moved to Canada. She pursued her passion and studied fashion design at the L’Academies des Couturiers Design Institute, made possible through the generosity of a retired fashion teacher who attended church with Korto’s family. “I received acceptance from the top design university in Canada, but our family couldn’t meet the financial obligations,” says Korto. “I deflated, lost confidence and fell into depression. Then, a family friend recognized my potential and paid my university tuition.” Korto refers to her benefactor as an “angel.” “It instilled my pay-it-forward mentality toward youth and education in Arkansas.”