Empowerment of Expression

By Montgomery, Christine | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 18, 1998 | Go to article overview

Empowerment of Expression


Montgomery, Christine, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Creating art, cultural historian Maurice Berger says, is an empowering act.

"I believe that the paintbrush and the writing pen are more powerful than the gun," he says.

Mr. Berger, also an art historian, is the curator of "Hands and Minds: The Art and Writing of Young People in 20th Century America," a traveling exhibit that will debut at the Corcoran Gallery of Art Saturday and run through July 26.

The show includes pieces from writers Joyce Carol Oates and Truman Capote, pop artist Andy Warhol, poet Sylvia Plath and photographer Richard Avedon, all former winners, as young students, of the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, a national art and literary recognition program founded in the 1920s.

A second exhibit, culled from the work of this year's winners - several of whom are from the Washington area - will run concurrently with the "Hands and Minds" show.

Erin Voorhies, a 17-year-old rising senior at Maret School in the District, won for a three-dimensional abstract she created for the contest's mixed-media category.

"It reminds me of a bunch of people dancing," she says of the piece, which incorporates sketches, acrylic paints, sand and cutouts from magazines. "It's filled with life."

Other local winners include Blake Cooper, 17, of Georgetown Day School for his computer-graphics work called "Zebras"; Rebecca Stoil, 17, of the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville for her nonfiction essays; Jennifer Janiak, 15, for poetry; and Meghan Tunney, 17, for nonfiction essay. Miss Janiak and Miss Tunney attend the Carver Center for the Arts and Technology in Towson, Md.

In all, 1,100 students from across the country will receive awards and money totaling about $170,000 during a ceremony Saturday at the Kennedy Center.

Academy Award-winning actress Kathy Bates is the scheduled master of ceremonies, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Frank McCourt is scheduled to give the keynote address.

The event will be open to the public, but organizers say the students, their families and guests already make the ceremony a standing-room-only event.

An afternoon of readings hosted by Joyce Maynard at the Warner Theatre on Pennsylvania Avenue will be free and open to the public, beginning at 2 p.m. Saturday. Some of this year's student writing winners will read from their works.

The two exhibits at the Corcoran encompass more than 300 pieces of writing, painting, photography and other artistic media created from the 1920s through the 1990s. While all are original expressions, Mr. Berger says some trends emerge.

"In the literary area, I noticed in the 1920s and '30s and into the '40s [that] there was a tremendous emphasis on techniques and beautiful language," he says. …

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