By Pandolfi, Keith
Art Business News , Vol. 29, No. 9
Last June, approximately 350 of the nation's best young writers and artists descended on Washington, D.C.'s John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to receive recognition for their efforts at the 79th Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.
While the awards ceremony was meant to recognize the achievements of this year's winners, it also celebrated English and art teachers and served as a reminder to contestants' schools, families and communities that the arts remain a viable career choice.
Hosted by Rolling Stone Senior Editor and Film Critic Peter Travers, the event was attended by approximately 2,500 people and included an appearance by children's author and civil rights activist Ruby Bridges and Tony Award-nominated Broadway composer Elizabeth Swados. First Lady Laura Bush taped a special message to congratulate the award recipients.
As part of a low-key tribute to Sept. 11, the audience was shown a video titled "Art is Life," which focused on the importance of the creative spirit in recovering from tragic events.
"That was the sort of spirit with which we dedicated the ceremony this year," said BJ Adler, executive director of the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, which administers the awards. "These guys were part of our recovery and part of our hope for the future."
Approximately 255 pieces of award-winning student artwork were featured at The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards National Exhibition of 2002, which took place at Washington's Corcoran Gallery of Art, through July 15. Thanks to a new partnership with the Art & Framing Council, the art and framing industry will be a part of this exciting and prestigious program starting this fall.
An Established History
The Scholastic Awards were established in 1923 by Scholastic Inc. and are open to young artists, ages 12 to 18. Each year, more than 250,000 works of art and writing are submitted to 90 regional affiliate competitions across the country for consideration in 26 different categories.
This year, approximately 50,000 young artists and writers received honors from the regional programs. More than 25,000 finalists made it to the national level of judging. National honors were presented to 1,100 students who were selected by panel of jurors comprised of renowned artists, authors, educators and arts professionals.
Winners of the Scholastic Awards are in good company. Past winners have included such cultural icons as Andy Warhol, Joyce Carol Oates, Robert Redford, Richard Avedon and Sylvia Plath.
Adler said the Scholastic Awards are unique because of their long history and legacy. "M.R. Robinson, the founder of Scholastic, followed by his son, Dick, who is the current c.e.o., thought it was critically important to recognize and encourage creative development in American youth," she said." [The awards have] been a placeholder for these kinds of kids for 80 years."
The Scholastic Awards are also a way to recognize students whose talents often go unnoticed in this age of standardized testing and dwindling arts funding, Adler said. "There are many recognitions for athletics," she said, "but children learn in different ways. These kids have made a critical impact on many areas of the American psyche, culture and economy. These are the kids who have gone into communications, design and graphic arts. They really power the way we look at the world."
Boost of Confidence
One of this year's winners was Trinity High School (New York) graduate Ian Ferguson, who received a Gold Portfolio Award for his work in photography. After taking summer photography classes in Paris and at the Rhode Island School of Design, Ferguson developed an eye for high-impact images.
"I look for something graphic," said Ferguson, who has won Scholastic awards in both art and writing, "something with punch and some sort of tangible composition that really flows. …