El Paso, Texas, native Marianna Olague was recently named the 2019 Mercedes-Benz  Financial Services Michigan Emerging Artist Award recipient for her work completed  at the Cranbrook Academy of Art.

El Paso, Texas, native Marianna Olague was recently named the 2019 Mercedes-Benz Financial Services Michigan Emerging Artist Award recipient for her work completed at the Cranbrook Academy of Art.

Photo provided by Hope Brown, of PublicCity PR


Cranbrook grad heads to Berlin for art residency

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published June 4, 2019

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BLOOMFIELD HILLS — El Paso, Texas, native Marianna Olague applied to the graduate program at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in hopes of leaving her poverty-stricken border town and building a better life.

But once she was accepted, she sat in her Bloomfield Hills painting studio and thought about home.

Olague, a 2019 graduate of Cranbrook’s painting department, created a series of paintings about the people of her El Paso community, and that work was recently recognized as a 2019 Mercedes-Benz Financial Services Michigan Emerging Artist Award recipient.

The series has been in the works for the past year, and Olague said it was a difficult exploration to go on, since her memories of her hometown are bittersweet.

“The city we live in is a border city. Border towns are government housing and low-income neighborhoods. But that’s where my family is, and I really wanted to paint them,” she explained. “It was a vulnerable thing to do to paint about my life, but all of my mentors encouraged it. Cranbrook has these visiting artists come in, and they would tell me not to shy away from it, not to censor myself. No artist should have to do that.”

One piece from that collection, a portrait of her younger sister, Maya, was procured by the Cranbrook Art Museum and is available for the public to see in person. It also happens to be one of Olague’s favorites.

“She has so much attitude, and she knows herself very well despite being so young. I really wanted to paint her. She still lives in that neighborhood that I was luckily able to leave, but in the painting her head is in the clouds. It means she’s desiring a better life. I hope people understand that when they see (the painting), and they understand that’s what the artist wanted too.”

As the recipient of the 15th annual Michigan Emerging Artist Award, Olague will participate in a two-month residency in Berlin this summer, which includes travel, lodging, studio space at the international cultural center Küenstlerhaus Bethanien, local transportation and a $5,000 stipend. She will also be part of a personalized networking program that will facilitate introductions to members of the international art community. Oh, and she’ll have complimentary admission to Berlin museums too, in case she needs some extra inspiration.

The nine other finalists will be awarded $1,000 New Beginnings awards, and other candidates could be part of the Mercedes-Benz Financial Services Headquarters yearlong student and graduate art exhibition titled “Experiencing Perspectives,” on display at the company’s Farmington Hills headquarters, along with its business center in Fort Worth, Texas.

“This award provides our students with an opportunity they simply could not receive anywhere else,” Cranbrook Academy of Art Director Susan Ewing said in a prepared statement. “In addition to the financial award, our students gain a full roster of new connections. Each recipient returns from this trip even more grateful than when they left. We look forward to hearing about Marianna’s experience when she returns.”

Peter Zieringer, the president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Financial Services, said the company’s partnership with Cranbrook and other schools is a great point of pride. It certainly serves as a muse for Mercedes-Benz employees.

“When you travel the halls of the Mercedes-Benz Financial Services Headquarters, it’s easy to feel as if you’re visiting an art museum, thanks to the talented Cranbrook artists who share their work in our program,” Zieringer said in a press release. “Our congratulations to Marianna on her accomplishments. With this award, we are pleased to be able to shine a spotlight on her talent and hard work.”

Submissions for the prize were juried by Mercedes-Benz and Elysia Borowy-Reeder, the executive director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, among others.

To learn more about Marianna Olague, visit her website at mariannaolague.com.

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