Art Appreciation

Brazilian Lemos, WC'14, works at the computer to create collages and other experimental pieces in her studies as a studio art major, but on the volleyball court for the Golden Tigers puts her serenity to work making other teams lose theirs.
Brazilian Lemos, WC’14, works at the computer to create collages and other experimental pieces in her studies as a studio art major, but on the volleyball court for the Golden Tigers puts her serenity to work making other teams lose theirs.

Encounter studio arts major Ellen Lemos’
 low-stress demeanor as a Brenau art galleries volunteer and you would never suspect that 
she is best known at Brenau for “kills.”

Growing up in the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte – which is Portuguese for “Beautiful Horizon” – Ellen Lemos, WC ’14, was impatient to explore the world beyond.

“Since I was a freshman in high school, I wanted to get out of my parents’ house,” she says.

That’s unusual. Brazilian children tend to live at home until they marry. “Here in America, as soon as you can, you move out. I always wanted to play volleyball, but I also wanted to get a degree and have a career.”

The Brenau senior studio art major with a 3.6 GPA recognized that she needed to go to the United States to attend college and play high-level volleyball at the same time.         In her country, players choose one or the other.

Lemos learned about the American college system at 15 while competing in a Seattle volleyball tournament. She enrolled at Northern Michigan University, where a Brazilian teammate’s cousin coached.

“I didn’t hesitate to come,” says Lemos, now 22. “It was an opportunity. When I see one, I grab it. And my family’s behind me, supporting me.”

However, the cold Michigan weather took graphic design student Lemos off guard. “My first winter, I was so happy – I saw snow the first time in my life.” By her second winter, she realized, “This is not for me.” She sought schools with arts programs – and warmer temperatures – and chose Brenau.

“I’m independent, and in women’s schools they are independent,” she says. “They study hard and they go for their dreams.” Golden Tigers volleyball coach Jeff White was impressed by Lemos’ background and put her on scholarship. “I knew she could be that bridge from being a non-winning program to a winning program,” he says. “She did that in one year.”

Lemos and Sydney Koon, another new arrival, helped Brenau to its second 20-win season in school history. Lemos, who stands 6 feet tall and has exceptionally long arms, broke a school record for kills with 29 in a five-set victory over Spring Hill, the No. 1 seed in the Southern States Athletic Conference Tournament.

Thanks to that performance, Lemos was named SSAC Player of the Week during the season, but she did not know about the honor until Melissa Morgan, Brenau’s gallery director, told her during a class.

“She had no idea she had won it,” says Morgan, who had seen the announcement posted at the gym. “This is typical Ellen.”

For someone whose performance is measured by “kills,” Lemos is known for her calm, laid-back demeanor.

“Nothing really stresses her out,” says Morgan, who appreciates Lemos’ help as a volunteer in the gallery. “She’s easy to get along with, very cordial. She smiles a lot and is happy in life.”

White says Lemos is a “very calming factor during matches.” He also says her creativity as an artist carries over on the court, where her strength at the opposite hitter position lies in her ability to “mix things up,” adjusting to situations and hitting the ball where defenders least expect it. That’s because she constantly thinks while she plays, which not all players do, figuring out where to place her shots instead of how hard to “crush the ball.”

Lemos mixes things up in art, too, working with collages and colors. The painter entered two watercolors in a juried show, one a toucan and the other a small monkey from Brazil.

 

 

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