As a young girl in Peru, Ana Maria Ravines de Schur immersed herself in classic literature and painting.
“Before I started reading and writing, I was painting,” she said reminiscing over her childhood fascination with Rembrandt, Michelangelo and Da Vinci.
Now a senior majoring in intercultural education and German, Ravines de Schur spends countless hours painting and sculpting.
She split her life between Peru and Germany before coming to Utah six years ago with her three children after her marriage fell apart. She said racist attitudes of the German government toward interracial couples and conflict with her former husband forced her to leave the country. Ravines de Schur was the first racial minority to gain political refuge in the United States from Germany because of racism.
“I have to make this bad experience turn around and be something good, not only for me but for other people so that they will not need to run away,” she said. “You don’t want to be a refugee.”
Ravines de Schur originally came to Utah, but moved to New York shortly after. It was there that she was granted political asylum. She later attended the University of Montana for two semesters, but found it difficult to keep up with out-of-state tuition costs. Because Utah was the first place she came to as a refugee, she was offered in-state tuition at the U.
Despite being educated in the arts in both Latin America and Europe, Ravines de Schur came to the U to develop a more well-rounded education.
“All the things I’ve learned here in the school of humanities are only expressible through the arts,” she said.
Her artwork is more than colorful acrylic and oil paint on canvas. Many of her paintings reflect the struggles of women in patriarchal societies of the world, she said. In addition to painting and sculpture, Ravines de Schur has composed music and writes poetry.
She sent photos of her art worldwide, hoping someone would discover her work and give her a venue for display. After numerous rejection letters, she got a break when the Embassy of Venezuela in Washington, D.C., offered her a solo show next month.
The exhibition, “Amravin,” which is the shorter version of her name, will run at the embassy from Oct. 18 through Nov. 2.
“I’m not surprised she is finally receiving some recognition,” said Richard Drake, chair of the Department of History at the University of Montana and Ravines de Schur’s former professor.
“She has boundless energy, is intellectually adventurous and artistically gifted,” Drake said.
Although her exhibition in Washington, D.C., has been confirmed, Ravines de Schur is looking for money to help her with expenses, such as the costs of transporting her artwork. Officials at the College of Humanities will help her match the funds she raises.
“Her work is exciting,” said Mark Bergstrom, associate dean of the College of Humanities. “I think she’s a very talented artist. The College is always trying to help students who are deserving of support.”
In the meantime, Ravines de Schur is working to finish her website, where she will sell her sculptures made of bronze and clay and posters of her paintings. Half of the proceeds will go to schools in Latin America that help educate poor children, Ravines de Schur said.
She wants to use her art to make life better for others and is particularly concerned with conditions in the “favelas” of Brazil, which are slums where children are constantly in danger because of gang warfare, she said.
If people don’t reach out to these children, “they will never know there is a safer world out there,” she said.
Ravines de Schur said she is hoping the show in Washington, D.C., will be noticed by people who are willing to help her with her mission to use art to help the less fortunate.
“She is an extraordinary human being with a wide range of talents and a real determination to make a positive difference in the world,” Drake said.