Gay University of Arts Student Awarded Tony Sparacino Memorial Scholarship

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

The gay, lesbian and trans community have more aid financially for education than ever before. Philadelphia’s rainbow community is no stranger to this with the Sapphire Fund’s Tony Sparacino Memorial scholarship.

The Sapphire Fund created this scholarship in tribute to its former board member Tony Sparacino who passed away February 2007 and he contributed greatly to this city’s LGTQ community.

Nine applicants were reviewed with John Davenport shining through as the winner. The scholarship committee who chose Davenport consists of Sparacino’s family and friends. The individuals considered were from schools like Temple, University of the Arts and Philadelphia College of Art. The criterion set in the scholarship includes essay questions, financial needs, grades and community involvement.

In Davenport’s application process, Wayne Hamilton Sapphire Fund President says, “His love of fabric and the breadth with which he described theatre/costume design reminded the committee of Tony and his love of design, clothing and fabric. John is also self-funding most of his education. He also has extensive community involvement.”

John Davenport grew up in Northern Maryland. He got threw high school in 3 years and got his Associates Degree. He says, “I took a year off after that to work and make money so I could pay for school. In that time I had a lot of great opportunities to work for different theatres in the area, as well as for several local dance companies. It was a really nice chance to work with different people in different areas of performance.” He is currently in his junior year at The University of the Arts. He adds, “It was at that time, before U of A, that I decided I wanted to go back to school and get my BFA in theatre design.”

Davenport’s love of theatre doesn’t lean towards any particular style or favorite, “I like it all. For me and with what I do it wouldn’t make me a top performer in my field. I wouldn’t be good at what I do if I said that I only want to work with Shakespeare or just dramas. I like to stay open-minded and take on any task someone can throw at me. I love working with dance companies and I love working with theatre companies.” Clearly this love is why the scholarship committee chose him.

Somewhat new to Philadelphia Davenport has lived here for 2 years. “To be honest,” he says, “I fell in love with it the first time I came to check out the college. I felt Philly had a great energy with a strong environment with different tones of people around every corner.”

With his wide range of experience it is hard for Davenport to pick a favorite. “Out of the shows I have worked on I really enjoyed doing A Chorus Line. I got to design the lighting for that show and I thought that was very interesting to design an element that helps to tell the story and make the show more exciting without taking over the stage.” He also recently worked on the costumes for Court-Martial at Fort Devens.

Though heavily immersed in Philadelphia’s theatre scene, Davenport feels he hasn’t made his big “splash” yet, “I haven’t had the chance to really showcase any of my work in the city yet but stay tuned. I’m the Assistant Costume designer for Little Women the Musical that is opening at the Arts Bank on December 5th.”

It could be quite daunting to receive an award named after a man so revered. Davenport is a respectful young gentleman that hopes to do the name justice, “Since I received the Tony Sparacino Scholarship I have been getting more of an opportunity to come out and talk to the community. Sapphire Fund has been really great in helping find ways to give back. The scholarship hasn’t completely flipped my life around but it has given me the amazing opportunity to meet some of the sweetest people who are in our city. Tony’s friends are some of the greatest people I have ever had the chance of meeting. At the tribute ceremony it was so powerful to see all these people come and celebrate the life of a great man whose name I only hope to do justice for in Philadelphia and help the memory of what he had done for our community live on.”

I personally look forward to Davenport’s artistic offerings. His love of all things theatre permeates in him words and personality. “I love to do it all. If there is anyone in the world that is looking for a creative output call me up and I will be there with a needle and thread in hand and a paint brush in my back pocket.”

The Sapphire Fund is currently holding a Macy’s Passport Fashion Screening Cinema Extravaganza. Tickets are on sale now for this event that takes place on October 23rd.

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