As a child, Julia Jalowiec spent a lot of time in her backyard. But instead of playing sports or riding bikes, her interest lay elsewhere.

“I would dig up the Texas clay, and I would make sculptures,” she said. “I actually have sculptures that I made when I was 5 or 6 years old that I saved.”

And Jalowiec has never let go of that artistic drive.

A defining moment came this year when she was recognized as the Texas Emerging Artist Award winner by Southern Methodist University and Mercedes-Benz Financial Services.

The company, which has an office in the AllianceTexas master-planned community in Northeast Fort Worth, has worked with SMU and Texas Christian University since 2008 to recognize promising art students and graduates, said Leila Matta, manager of art programs for Mercedes-Benz Financial Services.

“The main question I always get is ‘What does an automotive financial services company have to do with art?’” Matta said. “Really, the reason we do it is to bring culture and inspiration and creative thought into our workspace to challenge our employees to see things in new and different ways.”

The program is aptly named “Experiencing Perspectives.” Each spring, new award winners are chosen and their works are featured along the walls of Mercedes-Benz Fort Worth Business Center at 14372 Heritage Parkway. At the end of the exhibit, pieces can be purchased by employees or others who wish to keep the art for themselves.

When the company moved into its new 200,000-square-foot, four-story facility earlier this year, it was even better equipped to highlight these creations. The technology installed allows for more mediums, such as digital and video artworks, Matta said. This year, $2,500-$5,000 prizes were awarded to other SMU students and graduates Angie Reisch, Nathalie Alfonso and Nida Bangash.

The value the art program brings to Mercedes-Benz is immeasurable, Matta said. It not only broadens the winners' horizons but also uplifts and empowers other aspiring artists.

And as its 2019 Texas Emerging Artist Award winner, Jalowiec traveled to Berlin for two months to learn from and engage with other artists.

“I had no idea what awaited me,” said Jalowiec, who earned her art degree last year from the Southern Methodist University Meadows School of the Arts. “I grew leaps and bounds as an artist in the residency that that I was able to attend in Berlin. ... It really changes the way, as an artist, that you make [art] because you're just learning so much about the world and your own world view.”

Jalowiec said she appreciates the effort from both the university and Mercedes-Benz to recognize artists.

“If you stand in front of their work, you can feel the full weight of their experiences and their stories,” she said.

Jalowiec’s piece “Evolution of Sisters,” for example, shows the growing relationship between her and her sister in cast bronze sculptures.

“I feel like if you have this desire to create, I feel like that just never goes away,” Jalowiec said. “That just never stops for people.”