Lily Scharff

The Happy Fernandez Leadership Prize is awarded to a graduating senior who has demonstrated exemplary leadership qualities during their time at Moore. The endowed prize is named after Happy Fernandez, who served as president of the College for 13 years and had a particular focus on developing leadership programming, scholarships and fellowships to prepare the artists and designers educated at Moore to be leaders in their fields. 

Hear about Lily Scharff’s plans for the monetary gift below. 

My name is Lily Scharff, and I’m a Fine Arts major with a Textiles minor. My work explores cycles of death and rebirth, as well as American society’s relationship to funerary rituals and mourning. Through my work, I aim to foster conversations about death and mourning, thus allowing viewers to establish a healthier relationship with their own mortality. 

The goal of my senior thesis is to create a safe space to foster conversations about death and healthy grieving practices. Americans have become increasingly separate from dealing with the death that we are constantly exposed to. Through my thesis, I hope to normalize the conversation and educate about larger abstract concepts like death and mourning by creating an inviting and informative space. By creating such an environment, I am allowing the viewer a moment to connect on a deeper level to the natural cycles of death, decay and rebirth. One of the main goals within my work is to highlight the beauty of these natural processes, while also making more imposing and complicated topics such as death more approachable. 

The main part of my thesis is an interactive collaborative memorial or altar space. I included text on the wall asking the viewer to participate by leaving a contribution. Accompanying this altar space was a handbound artist's book for participants to document and describe any interactions with the piece. This allows me to be able to return items of sentimental value, as well as have a record of the items added to the altar once the show is taken down. Additionally, I have four mixed-media pieces on the wall which reference and reimagine historical mourning and funerary imagery. 

I am truly honored to be the recipient of this award. I have grown and changed so much over the last four years and I owe it all to Moore and its amazing community. Throughout my time at Moore, I have had so many amazing opportunities and met so many influential and inspiring artists. I love this school, and that manifested into a desire to give my time and energy into building and maintaining the community which makes Moore so unique. I am truly so grateful to have my work recognized with this prize. 

After graduation, I’m looking forward to, firstly, a nap, but then I am excited to explore what the future could look like as an artist and activist dealing with helping society form a more positive relationship with death. There are some fascinating educators, funeral industry workers and artists already trailblazing in this field, so an opportunity to work alongside them would be a dream come true. 

This award will help support me as I work on my mission of educating others about forming a healthier relationship with our mortality. Educating through my art is my passion, and this award will allow me to do that. I want to show creatives, not only at Moore but around the world, the vast multitude of directions that an art degree can take them. 

My advice for future Moore students is time management! Find what works for you, whether that be a physical or digital planner, lists, etc. You will have a lot of things to balance, and that’s not going to change once you leave school, so figuring out how to manage your time is super important! 

Headshot by Dave Rizzio; Artwork by Lily Scharff, photos by Steve Weinik