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Brandon Surtain stands in front of his painting, 'Game of 21,' part of his 'Free Lunch' series done for his LSU bachelor of fine arts show. The former Tiger is now heading to Tulane graduate school.

ADVOCATE STAFF PHOTO BY ROBIN MILLER

Brandon Surtain's summer of studio work ended before it ever started.

As of Friday, he is a student in the Tulane University School of Architecture's master of fine arts program.

"It's all happening so fast," Surtain says. "I never expected any of this."

Surtain, a former defensive back on the LSU football team, graduated with his bachelor's degree in art on May 12. He planned to work full time as an artist for a year then apply to graduate schools.

But those plans changed when Kenneth Schwartz, the Favrot Professor and dean of the Tulane School of Architecture, read a feature story about Surtain in the May 29 edition of The Advocate. 

Schwartz emailed The Advocate saying he wanted to discuss the possibility of Surtain entering Tulane's graduate program in architecture. 

"He expressed interest in pursuing an MFA, but it is possible to pursue one’s art while also securing a professional degree in architecture," Schwartz wrote. "In fact, we have two faculty members who are very accomplished architects and also great painters (Professor Errol Barron FAIA and Associate Professor Tiffany Lin) … both are active and important faculty members at the Tulane School of Architecture."

Schwartz also said scholarship money was available.

"I called him, and he asked me to write a proposal," Surtain said. "On Monday, everything was finalized. I'll receive scholarship money to pay for the first semester, and everything will be merit-based after that."

The 23-year-old says attending Tulane is a dream come true.

"It was my first choice in graduate schools," he says. "I'm returning home to New Orleans, but I still feel like an LSU student."

Surtain moved from New Orleans to Baton Rouge with his family after Hurricane Katrina. He graduated from McKinley High School, where he played football, then enrolled at LSU. A walk-on, Surtain earned a spot on the Tigers. 

"My mom is so happy," Surtain says. "She's been praying, and she told me to pray. And now everything is working out, but it's happening so fast. I never expected this, but I am so grateful."

A final note: All of Surtain's work sold at his BFA show at the Arts Council of Baton Rouge in early May. He's hoping to find time to start a new collection. 

Follow Robin Miller on Twitter, @rmillerbr.