You are here

Irwin Scholars

The William Hyde Irwin and Susan Benteen Irwin Scholarship is our most prestigious student scholarship.  At the end of Fall quarter, thirty students are nominated by full time faculty to submit work for competition. Make sure that you are on their radar and that the faculty know who you are by being active in class, attending office hours and working closely with faculty on your projects. If you are interested in being considered do not hesitate to set up an appointment with a ladder rank faculty member to ask them specifically what you can do to be considered as an applicant. Ladder faculty meet as a group at the beginning of Winter quarter to select the year's Irwin Scholarship recipients. Exceptional students from each area are invited to apply in Winter.  Selection is based on the excellence of the nominees' creative work. Twelve students receive $2,500 and a highly-publicized group show in the Mary Porter Sesnon Gallery during Spring quarter.

IRWIN SCHOLARS 2019 SHOW - Present/Tense

Dates: Wed, May 29, 2019 to Fri, Jun 14, 2019

Location: Sesnon Gallery, Porter Faculty Gallery, Sesnon Underground

Reception Wednesday, May 29th 5pm - 7pm - Awards ceremony at 6pm

Irwin Scholars 2019: 
Ella Boker
Lizzy Choi
Jesse Collins
John Contreras
Marcus Cota
Kaleigh Fleischmann
Jamie Franks
Sophie Lev
d Lynch
Gregory Shilling
Oliver Stoops
Ashley Rose Tacheira
Yu Zheng

The Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery is excited to introduce IRWIN 2019: Present/Tense, the 33rd annual Irwin Scholarship Award exhibition, which showcases the work of a select group of UC Santa Cruz’s most promising young artists: Ella Boker, Lizzy Choi, Jesse Collins, John Contreras, Marcus Cota, Kaleigh Fleischmann, Jamie Franks, Sophie Lev, d Lynch, Gregory Shilling, Oliver Stoops, Ashley Rose Tacheira, and Yu Zheng.

In this present age, information is distributed virally through online digital platforms. As emerging artists, “How do we anchor ourselves to our personal understanding of the world when we are constantly being bombarded with images of false advertising and propaganda?” The Irwin scholars ask, "How does the role of the artist evolve in a generation where content creation and self-publishing have become increasingly accessible?”

Present/Tense features thirteen artists whose works both process and challenge these questions and the insecurities of a constantly shifting socio-cultural landscape.  Examining the personal impact of structural inequality, environmental destruction, technological anxiety, globalized alienation, and the commodification of the self, Present/Tense explores the position of the artist in an unsustainable world. It is an attempt to navigate the 21st century maze of institutional boundaries, powerful corporations and exponentially-progressing technologies with candid self-expression and humor.

Showcasing a variety of approaches to contemporary art practice, the exhibition includes drawing, painting, printmaking, photography, sculpture, stop-motion animation, artists’ books, performance, and video installation.

In the face of blatant structural corruption, an increased need for honesty is placed upon the voices of the next generation. “I look forward to the Irwin scholar exhibit each year,” says 2012 Irwin scholar and local Santa Cruz artist Louise Leong. “It’s interesting to see the work of these emerging artists’ transform or conform to a formal art space and hear the student perspectives of if and how a space influences their practice.”

 About the Irwin Family:

Susan Benteen and William Hyde Irwin retired in San Lorenzo Valley, after noted careers in the San Francisco arts community. The two shared a lifelong interest in the arts. William Irwin was a professional painter and they both taught art at San Francisco State College (now San Francisco State University) from 1932 to 1947. Susan Irwin also served as supervisor of art for San Francisco Unified School District.

After her husband’s death Sue Irwin established the William Hyde And Susan Benteen Irwin Scholarship Fund in 1986 in honor of her husband with a check for $10,000. Sue Benteen Irwin wanted others to have the same kind of art education that allowed her and her husband to flourish in a thriving arts community.  Susan Irwin received a scholarship to attend Columbia University. When she died in 1990 the endowment totaled $500,000, which provides $2,500 scholarships annually to art students in visual arts. Today the endowment has grown to over $1M generating at least 12 annual merit scholarships plus Irwin project grants open to all art students to apply for each quarter. This scholarship shows the far-reaching effects of donor support for the arts. 

William Hyde Irwin (1903 - 1982). William (Bill) Irwin was born in San Francisco, California on Oct. 14, 1903, son of painter Hallie Hyde and journalist Will Irwin. In 1910, the family settled in Brookdale where his mother designed and built the beautiful home called Rivercroft. Raised in an artistic home he first was taught to paint by his talented mother. Following his education at Stanford University, he pursued art studies at the CCAC, Académies Moderne and Colarossi in Paris, and at UC Berkeley. He later taught art at Santa Cruz High School and San Francisco State University. He enjoyed painting scenes and buildings in the San Lorenzo Valley. 

Susan J Benteen (1908 - 1990). Susan Benteen was born in Watsonville, CA on April 14, 1908. Benteen earned an M.A. degree at UC Berkeley and her teaching credentials at Columbia University. She further studied at the CCAC, Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, Schaeffer School of Design in San Francisco, and with Hans Hofmann. After 1932 she was an art professor at San Francisco State College. Her articles on art education often appeared in Design magazine. 

About the Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery

The Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery encourages interdisciplinary discourse through the lens of the arts. The gallery is located at Porter College above the koi pond at UC Santa Cruz, and is wheelchair accessible. Admission is free and metered parking is available at Porter College.  Gallery hours: Tuesday–Saturday, 12–5:00 p.m. and Wednesday, 12–8:00 p.m. The gallery is a short walk from the bus stop at Porter College. Group tours are available by appointment at 831-459-3606, or via email Please visit our website for more information:



Instagram: sesnon.ucsc


Irwin Scholars 2019

Irwin Scholars 2018

Irwin Scholars 2017

Irwin Scholars 2016

Irwin Scholars 2015

Irwin Scholars 2014

Irwin Scholars 2013

Irwin Scholars 2012

Irwin Scholars 2011

Irwin Scholars 2010

Irwin Scholars 2009

Irwin Scholars 2008

Irwin Scholars 2007

Irwin Scholars 2006

Irwin Scholars 2005

Irwin Scholars 2004

Irwin Scholars 2003


Follow the Irwin Scholars on Facebook.