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Olivia Howe of Brattleboro, a junior at Brattleboro Union High School, at the lectern at the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center, reads from her novel “Murder at the Mash” at a March 5 awards ceremony for the 2017 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.

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BUHS student’s novel takes gold medal in national competition

Seven other Vermonters garner awards

BRATTLEBORO—Olivia Howe of Brattleboro, a junior at Brattleboro Union High School, has won a prestigious Gold Medal in the 2017 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards for her novel, Murder at the Mash.

According to Brattleboro Museum & Art Center executive director Danny Lichtenfeld, Howe is one of only seven students nationwide to receive a Gold Medal in the Novel Writing category.

Lichenfeld said seven other Vermonters will also receive national medals in this year’s Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. They are:

• Jahyde Bullard, Grade 12, Vermont Academy, Silver Medal, Personal Essay/Memoir.

• Freesia Capy Goldfarb, Grade 12, Brattleboro Union High School, Silver Medal with Distinction, Art Portfolio, and Silver Medal, Photography.

• Eva Gondelman, Grade 10, The Putney School, American Visions Medal, Photography.

• Fiona Goodman, Grade 8, Brattleboro Area Middle School, Silver Medal, Personal Essay/Memoir.

• Do Young Kwak, Grade 12, St. Johnsbury Academy, Silver Medal, Art Portfolio, and Silver Medal, Painting

• Alex Pelletier, Grade 10, Stowe Middle/High School, Gold Medal, Personal Essay/Memoir

• Zoe Schemm, Bellows Falls Union High School, American Voices Medal, Short Story.

The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards are the nation’s longest-running and most prestigious scholarship program for creative teens.

Run by a national nonprofit and administered in Vermont by BMAC, the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards have searched out the most talented visual artists and writers in grades 7-12 for 94 years. Previous winners include Truman Capote, Joyce Carol Oates, Lena Dunham, Stephen King, Andy Warhol, and Robert Redford.

Students can submit ceramics, digital art, painting, photography, poetry, science fiction, personal essay/memoir, and more. This year’s regional winners in art and writing were recently on display in three galleries at the museum, and a March 5 event at the museum honored the statewide winners.

The students compete on two levels: first regional and then national. All of Vermont is considered one region. Statewide awards consist of Gold Key, Silver Key, and Honorable Mention.

The state-level winners then advance into the national competition, whose winners were announced March 14.

According to Lichtenfeld, BMAC got involved in 2011 because no one was administering the program here.

“It was an opportunity that kids in other parts of the country had, but not here,” said Lichtenfeld. “Susan Calabria, who was our education curator until she retired, was a winner one year, so this was a program she was very familiar with. She had the idea that this was something we could do and it would be a valuable service for kids in grades 7-12. So we took that on. Now the program is being administered by our exhibitions manager, Sarah Freeman.”

Since BMAC took it on, the Vermont program has been a big success. In 2015, Edil Hassan, a Somali refugee who was a Burlington High School senior, was one of 12 students nationwide to win the highest possible writing award.

“She got some college scholarship money, was honored at an award ceremony at Carnegie Hall, and I think she was published,” Lichtenfeld said.

The submission deadline is in December. In January, the museum convenes panels of judges. One is for writing, one is for art, and another is for photographers.

“We have so many more photography submissions than for other art media,” Lichtenfeld said.

This year, Windham County produced many of the Gold Key winners — BUHS has eight, The Putney School has five, Vermont Academy has four, and Brattleboro Area Middle School and Bellows Falls Union High School has one each.

“This has been a really worthwhile thing to be doing,” Lichtenfeld said. “Participation has been growing in terms of the number of schools around the state that participate and the number of works submitted.

“This year, over 225 kids submitted a total of 737 artworks and pieces of writing. It’s a great honor to have your work in the museum and get recognition that way, but it’s even more exciting to have the possibility of recognition on the national level.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #399 (Wednesday, March 15, 2017).

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