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The Arts

Nurturing teen creativity

BMAC happily takes on responsibility of running the Vermont segment of the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards

For more information on the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, visit BMAC is at 10 Vernon St. and

BRATTLEBORO—What do Andy Warhol, Sylvia Plath, Truman Capote, Richard Avedon, Robert Redford, Joyce Carol Oates, and Myla Goldberg all have in common?

All got an artistic boost as winners in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, a national organization that for 90 years has recognized emerging youth excellence in literature and the arts.

And Windham County can get a look this week at the works of perhaps the next Plath, Avedon, or Oates as the 2013 Vermont regional winners of the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards are on display at the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center (BMAC) during regular museum hours in the Wolf Kahn and Emily Mason Gallery.

The exhibit features drawings, paintings, sculptures, photographs, fashion design, and other mixed media from teens from southern, central and northern Vermont.

The museum will host an awards ceremony at the show’s closing on Saturday, March 2, at 1 p.m. Keynote speaker is Hilary Price, creator of the syndicated comic strip “Rhymes with Orange.”

Each year, students in grades 7 to 12 are invited to submit original written and artistic works to their regional branch of the national Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. This is an opportunity for them to gain national recognition and scholarships.

Student art and writing is judged on three criteria: originality, technical skill, and the emergence of a personal vision or voice. There are three levels of awards selected by an esteemed panel of jurors: the most outstanding (Gold Key), high honors (Silver Key), and honorable mention.

BMAC is the Vermont affiliate for this prestigious program. At the official awards ceremony, state winners, students and teachers from as far north as Burlington and St. Johnsbury are in attendance. The general public is also invited to attend and support these talented young artists.

All Vermont Gold Key art and writing winners advance to national judging. The national judges then select the best of the five American Voices and Visions Nominees from each region to receive recognition. National Awards will be announced on March 15.

Danny Lichtenfeld, director of BMAC, said he believes that hosting Scholastic Art and Writing Awards is a “natural thing” for the museum.

“Our mission here is to present art and to engage people of all ages. We are increasingly engaged in our goal to nurture artistic endeavors for and by youth, and these awards go along with our growing commitment to youth outreach. The awards help us support teenage creativity throughout the state, and can lead to significant amounts of money for scholarships.

“This is our third year sponsoring the awards, and we are pleased to see how it has grown from year to year. This year has seen a significant bump up in submissions. We have had over 350 of them, a testament to how these awards are becoming vital to the people of this state,” he said.

BMAC Education Curator Susan Calabria was eager to assume responsibility for local Scholastic Art and Writing Awards efforts from Great River Arts in Bellows Falls when that organization no longer could sponsor them.

“I had entered the contest myself when I was in high school, so I realized how important they could be for youth,” she says. “We at BMAC were in a good position to take over the awards. The awards would help us greatly expand our outreach and visibility in Vermont.”

Calabria admits that taking on the awards was sometimes a daunting enterprise.

“We needed to get the whole state involved,” she says. “This meant reaching out to many organizations and schools, to teachers and their students. I sent a lot of emails and made many phone calls. I particularly was insistent on finding unusual institutions and venues, so every one of our state’s youth would have an opportunity to join in. We not only had to send out the invitations to participate, we also had to organize the judging and bestow regional awards.”

Calabria says the judges had their work cut out for them:

“We received 88 writing submissions and many more pieces of visual art. We had four judges for the writing and three for the art. How we selected the judges can be hard to explain. But we required that they know the field, are practicing artists in the area they judge, and know the teenage world.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #192 (Wednesday, February 27, 2013).

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