Family to start scholarship in son’s memory

Theo Tate

Montgomery County graduate Grant Gardner worked as an artist for many motion pictures and TV shows before his death in 2019. The Gardner family and the Montgomery County Arts Council are starting a scholarship in memory of Grant Gardner.

Before he died in 2019 at age 38, Grant Gardner was an acclaimed artist in the entertainment industry.

The 1998 Montgomery County High School graduate worked in TV shows such as “Gotham,” “The Blacklist” and the “The Following” and motion pictures such as “Still Alice,” in which Julianne Moore won an Oscar for Best Actress. He lived in California and New York.

“For a small-town kid, he really went places and did things,” said Orlana Gardner, Grant’s mother.

This year, the Gardner family will team up with the Montgomery County Arts Council to start a scholarship in memory of the late assistant prop master. It will be called the Montgomery County Arts Council and Grant Gardner Memorial Scholarship.

The award will be given to a high school graduate who is interested in a career in art. The amount will be $1,000.

“We received quite a bit of money,” Orlana said. “We decided we were going to do an art scholarship in his name. Last year was one year after his death and I couldn’t pull it together. But thanks to the Arts Council, they gave me a little push. I decided to do it this year and hopefully, we’ll continue to do it.”

Orlana made the proposal of starting a scholarship during an Arts Council board meeting on March 11. At the meeting, there was discussion about selling one of Grant’s prints to fund the scholarship.

“That’s in the future and we haven’t crossed that bridge yet,” Orlana said. “We don’t have all of his artwork packed yet, either. Some of them are in Warner Brothers Studio in New York and some of them are in some storage unit up there. I’m hoping we’ll get it all back. But time will tell.”

After discussion, the Arts Council board voted unanimously to approve the scholarship, which will be awarded to any student from Montgomery County and Wellsville-Middletown high schools.

Orlana said any students who are interested in applying for the scholarship must see their counselor.

“When I told the counselor at Wellsville-Middletown, he goes, ‘I know one young lady who has been accepted to the Kansas City Art Institute and I’m sure she’ll be interested,’” Orlana said. “I got her application right away.”

Before working in the entertainment industry, Grant graduated with a degree in art history at the University of Missouri in Columbia. He also attended Moberly Area Community College for two years.

Orlana said when her son was attending MCHS, he had no career path.

“His art professor from Moberly Junior College ended up in Savannah (Ga.) and taught art in a college down there,” Orlana said. “He wanted him to maybe become an assistant, do some stuff and become a professor. But I don’t think that’s something he really wanted to do. When he graduated from high school, I don’t think he knew what he wanted to do. He was very artistic and he loved art in school. But I don’t think he ever dreamed that he would make a living doing that kind of thing.”

Grant moved to California and became a nanny for a movie producer/writer. That helped get him into the movie business. He started working in low-budget films.

Orlana said Grant grew up in a family that always worked on arts and crafts around the house.

“He called me one day and said, ‘Mom, I’m so glad we did so much neat stuff with cardboard and kits,’” Orlana said. “He made a roof out of corrugated cardboard and spray painted it aluminum-looking and it worked great. He was pretty creative on his feet. If something on the set broke or if it was something they needed to fix, he could think outside the box and do that. Sometimes you have to make do with what you got.”

Grant later moved to New York City, where he died on May 10, 2019, just two months before his 39th birthday. He was a member of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Union.



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