Beauty is subjective. Art, in all of its forms, is subjective. We define them through the prism of our experiences and our tastes and our glimpse into the world around us. Preconceived notions play a hand in our interpretation of beauty and our definition of art. This is why we are flawed. But there are those amongst us that cast society’s defining rules aside and see the beauty in everything. Elisa Hughey, taken too soon by cancer on June 15, 2016, was such a person.
To say she was a lover of the arts would be an insult. Elisa was a lover of the world’s grandeur. An endlessly creative mind coupled with high-end talent made her life a tour de force of artistic innovation. She was an ardent supporter of art and all that goes with it, which is why those whom held her dearest created the Elisa B. Hughey Scholarship for the Arts.
“She had this way about her, where she was so accepting of everyone and everything,” said Beverly Dodici, Elisa’s best friend since childhood. “It could have been a caterpillar walking across a branch or a leaf on a tree or a Van Gogh - she saw this beauty in everything that not a lot of others did. That’s what made her such a special person and talented artist.”
A graduate of West Valley High School, Elisa would go on to receive her Bachelors from Alfred University, Masters in Art Education from Buffalo State, and finally a Masters in Fine Art from the University of Buffalo. She began teaching art at school before realizing she didn’t fit that mold.
“That never fulfilled her,” Dodici said. “She almost felt confined by that … the hours, lifestyle. The passion for art and to not be afraid of what’s within and embrace it showed the type of person she was. I remember she did her Masters Thesis and they were these wax molds of rats. It was something so unique and bizarre but she made it beautiful.”
The scholarship aims to help propel students interested in art to higher education. Since Elisa attended West Valley and her children attend Ellicottville, two separate $500 scholarships will be given. She was also an avid runner, and the committee is organizing a fun run in June to raise money.
Although Elizabeth Lowes didn’t know the magnitude of Elisa’s artistic prowess, she did know how swift a runner she was. Helping Lowes to train for the 2013 Boston Marathon and then running it with her in 2014, she said that the development of the scholarship helped when everyone came at it from a different perspective.
“I think it speaks volumes that she could interact and identify with so many different types of people,” she said. “That’s why it’s so great that we could develop these scholarships that focus on the fine arts. After she passed, a bunch of us got together and just went running. For me, surrounded by the people that she impacted, that meant a lot.”
Elisa may have had a loving soul and an artist’s touch, but when she got sick, she turned into a fighter. Dodici didn’t realize how strong of a person she was until she saw her best friend run the Boston Marathon and go back to intensified chemotherapy just two days later.
“So few people know that, but that describes her. Tough from head to toe. That is my fondest and most important memory of her, when we crossed that finish line together. She had an art focus, but that didn’t stop her from helping those around her and being a constant source of inspiration. She helped people be the best they could be.”
The website, www.elisahugheyscholarship.com, contains all of the information you need to learn more or help out. Students are encouraged to send the completed application form, a statement, and a recommendation from a current or former art instructor. To compliment Elisa’s spirit, a memorial “Fun Run” (open to all) is being planned for June 10 in Ellicottville which will help raise additional funds for the scholarship.