Counseling graduate student awarded fine arts fellowship


George Mason University graduate student Truman Deree is one of 20 students (one of five graduate fellows) awarded a 2024-25 Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Visual Arts Fellowship. He received the award for his photography, which he also shares at TrumanDereePhotography on Instagram.

Truman Deree
Truman Deree. Photo provided

The fellowship comes with a $6,000 scholarship paid throughout the 2024-25 academic year and the opportunity to have his art placed throughout Richmond in locations such as VMFA’s Amuse Restaurant and Claiborne Robertson Room, VMFA’s Pauley Center Galleries, and Richmond International Airport. I caught up with Deree to learn more about his work and his experience at Mason.

What inspires you?

I always, even as a kid, liked doing photography for fun. I really got into it in high school. I took photography classes all four years. I had a really great teacher, Ms. Davidson, and I won my first awards at that point. That inspired me to be more proactive in taking photos and submitting them and sharing them. It’s continued to be something that I like to do as a hobby throughout my education.

Could you tell me more about what you do at Mason?

I am a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling. I am two years into my program with one year left, attending full-time. I decided I wanted to be a counselor in undergrad (psychology at James Madison University) because I had had positive experiences with counselors and wanted to do that for other people.

I have two student jobs, one as a graduate researcher for the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, and one as a clerk for the Faculty Senate. My photography is more of a hobby, although I do also use the editing and planning skills I use with it in my work and academic career.

What led you to George Mason University?

I had a friend who was attending undergraduate here and heard that Mason offered a good community. I went to high school in Arlington, so I liked the Northern Virginia region, and I knew that I wanted to become licensed in Virginia. There are good options for my line of work in the Northern Virginia/D.C. region.

As Above, So Below, a BW photo by Truman Deree
As Above, So Below, a photo by Truman Deree

What do you do at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media?

I am part of a team researching the U.S. census on religious bodies from 1926. We look at photos of the actual census forms and are digitizing information from those forms so that we can gain a better understanding of America’s religious institutions at the time and map it out. I have been working on that project for about 2.5 semesters now. It’s a large ongoing project, called American Religious Ecologies.

What are your future plans, and how will the VMFA scholarship impact those?

I’m hoping to graduate next May. Right now, I’m doing my practicum, and I have two semesters of internship left. After that, my plan is to become a licensed counselor. The fellowship will be helpful to me by giving me some added stability to pay for all of my needs through graduate school. I’m very thankful in that regard.

Did you have any advice to share with other students?

First, I would say that for any creative project, practice and submit. There are so many places to share your art if you look. I think Mason is really great in this regard because there are so many student publications for most types of writing or art you can think of. I personally have been published in the Hispanic Culture Review, and that was super cool, so I encourage Mason students to explore the list of student publications and see if any of them correspond with what you’re into.