New UTC Fellowship Creates Artist Opportunities 

Amia Spinks, a May 2022 UTC graduate, is the recipient of the first Diversity and Engagement Art Fellowship. Photo by Angela Foster/UTC

CHATTANOOGA—When Stacy Lightfoot arrived at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga as vice chancellor for diversity and engagement, she immediately knew how she wanted to decorate her division’s offices.
“It is the mission of our division to support students, faculty and staff and celebrate all of the beautiful diversity that exists here on campus,” she said. “It is always awesome to connect with other divisions on campus. It is always awesome to connect with community partners on campus.
“So when I first met Dr. (Angie) To, I said, ‘I want some artwork on these walls.’ After an hour’s conversation, we created a new fellowship.”
Lightfoot and To, the head of the UTC Department of Art, came up with the idea of hosting an art gallery within Diversity and Engagement. Lightfoot would provide a stipend to cover art supplies. To created the parameters: a rotating artist series changing three or four times a year highlighting and honoring young alums and giving them the opportunity to display their work.
That vision has become a reality. The Diversity and Engagement Art Fellowship was recently introduced with six oil paintings created by Tamia Spinks, who received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from UTC in May 2022.
Spinks said she created paintings that focused on rejuvenating Black representation.
“My goal has been to try to transform the minds of my viewers by altering the common stereotypical narrative of Black Americans and displaying them in a more uplifting light,” said Spinks, who grew up in the small West Tennessee town of Milan. “I do this by creating work that I can connect with by displaying my identity as a Black woman and my views on life. My paintings either tell stories about my life experiences or simply highlight those close to me, such as family and friends.”
To learn more about the new art fellowship and other campus happenings, visit