WAXAHACHIE — In memory of a creative legacy, the Ellis County Art Association has partnered with the “Shelley Nance Memorial Art Scholarship” to help raise funds in honor of Italy graduate Samantha Michelle “Shelley” Nance.

“Shelley expressed a lot of herself in her art,” recalled Cynthia Nance, mother of Shelley and organizer of the Shelley Nance Memorial Art Scholarship. “Shelley wasn’t well-known and didn’t have the opportunity to be well-known, but she expressed a lot of herself in her art. And we just want the community to remember that she was here and to get to know what she was about."

In a showcase of double purpose, ART On The Square is hosting “The Art of Shelley Nance” exhibition to help raise money for future artists.

“Through Cynthia, she asked us to show her daughter’s work in her memory,” explained Ellis County Art Association President, Tina Bohlman. “We had done that several times in the past in our old location, so this will be the first time in this gallery."

“This is strictly an exhibit, and none of the art is being sold,” Nance added. “So the donations we receive will go towards the scholarship that’s in her [Shelley's] name. And there will be about 260 pieces on display.”

Nance recalled a moment in her daughter’s fifth-grade class where Shelley was complimented by another student on her doodle of a butterfly. She later told her mother that she would become an artist when she grew up.

“Shelley was into anime; basically it’s what she started with,” Nance described of her daughter’s style in the Japanese animation.

Active in competition, Shelley received many accolades for her art, including the 2006 and 2007 ECAA Youth Art Show scholarship awards, and first place in the Calendar Contest sponsored by the Art Institute of Dallas, earning a $13,000 scholarship.

“For her to go to Dallas and attend this prominent school that she could get a degree that could send her off to California working with big companies like Pixar because that’s what she wanted to do, that was her dream,” Nance recollected.

With a plan to get a Bachelor’s degree in Multi-Media Art and Animation, Shelley's high school career drew to a close as she began at the Art Institute of Dallas.

Her dream was just within reach, that is, until September 10, 2009.

As reported by a press release from ART on the Square, Shelley was taken from her family and dreams when she fell victim to a horrific homicide at her Dallas apartment.

“My daughter was murdered in 2009,” Nance’s voice cracked. “One of her fellow students was jealous of her to the point that he killed her. My husband and I were on a trip to Yellowstone, and 1,200 miles away when I found out, she was killed.”

According to The Dallas Morning News, 20-year-old Shelley was dating a fellow student when the ire of her boyfriend’s roommate, Daniel Willyam, a gay former Navy pastry chef, grew obsessed with him and murdered Shelley in a jealous rage.

"She's only been gone for a couple of years, but it just feels like sometimes she's still just in school. Then reality hits and she's not, and she's gone," Nance described. “Her dream was to create video games because she was fanatical about them, because of the fantastic artwork that was in the details. I just loved sitting there watching her play; it was just wonderful."

To preserve Shelley’s memory, the “Shelley Nance Memorial Art Scholarship” was created in 2010, awarding $1,000 to a graduating senior pursuing an art degree from Italy High School.

“We created a scholarship in her name at her high school, and by using the art as an exhibit, we collect the donations to go towards that scholarship,” Nance affirmed. “Because of her scholarship, this is just one of the ways I raise money to help other art students. We’ve given out six scholarships over the last seven years.”

Expanding Shelley’s legacy, Nance has partnered with Ellis County Art Association (ECAA) and the ART on the Square gallery to host a memorial-like exhibition of Shelley’s life and artwork, inviting the community to attend.

“On some of the pieces, Shelley would journal and write specific things about each type of art she was putting on, how she felt about it, and some of that will be included with the demo we’ll be doing this weekend,” Nance articulated.

“We just want the community to remember that she was here and to get to know what she was about. Art influences a lot of kids, and sometimes it will take their interest and lead them in a direction that they didn’t know they could go."Nance added, “We just want to recognize there’s fulfillment in artwork, and it should be able to influence and fulfill the newer generation’s dreams through her dream."

To visit Shelley’s website, go to kakushi-kamera.net.

The “Art of Shelley Nance” exhibition will be held on Saturday, July 29, from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. and Sunday, July 30, from 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. at ART on the Square’s gallery, 113 Franklin Street, Waxahachie. For more information, visit elliscountyart.net or call (972)-937-3414.


Chelsea Groomer, @ChelseaGroomer