UTA Magazine
Wishful Wings James S. Barnett Jr. Foundation

James S. Barnett Jr. had three great loves. The first was flying. Later, there was his family. Barnett and his wife, Kyong Ju, had two children: daughter Mia, a recent biology graduate of the University of San Diego who plans to be a physician, and son Jesse, a senior photography student at UTA. Barnett’s third love, Jesse says, was helping people.

Mia Barnett, Kyong Ju Barnett and Jesse Barnett

Mia Barnett, Kyong Ju Barnett and Jesse Barnett.

His father found a way to balance all three. Barnett used flying skills honed as a military pilot to support his family by working as a Life Flight pilot, speeding the critically injured to a medical center. In 1993, while trying to save an accident victim, he was killed in a crash caused by an engine malfunction. Five years later, Kyong Ju Barnett won a wrongful death lawsuit against the helicopter manufacturer.

“My mother wanted to use the money to carry on my father’s legacy of helping others,” Jesse said, explaining the family’s decision to establish the Wishful Wings James S. Barnett Jr. Foundation.

The UTA Art and Art History Department has benefited from the family’s generosity. Wishful Wings has provided funds for scholarship grants of $3,000, $2,000 and $1,000 and five grants of $500. The department also received $1,000 to administer the program.

Chairman Andy Anderson said the department will present the first awards at the opening of the Studio Arts Center in March. The awards involve a competition designed to help students develop the skills to communicate ideas and create effective proposals. “The artists will not be judged by a piece of art, but by an art concept and how well they can communicate their ideas,” he said.

The process begins with a 10-page essay describing the project. A panel of judges will select the top 10 essays, and those students will do an oral presentation of their concepts before the awards are granted.

Jesse is proud that the foundation’s first grant will assist young artists. Growing up with a Korean mother made him realize, he said, that the arts are like another language—but one that everyone can understand.

Although he has a passion for all the arts and for the creative process, he has focused on photography. “Photography, the still image, is such a powerful tool to help us see and understand the world,” he said.

His father would be proud, too, Jesse said, that through Wishful Wings he’s now helping others take flight.

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