By Jackie Contreras
BU News Service
This article was originally published in the Cambridge Chronicle.
Every year, a jury of leaders in the visual and literary arts comes together to judge the work of talented teens through the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. And those teens, of which 46 were Cambridge students, may become the next generation of great artists, following in the footsteps of notable recipients like Andy Warhol, Sylvia Plath, Joyce Carol Oates and Ken Burns.
Ranging from seventh to 12th grade, the 46 Cambridge students were honored with Gold Keys, Silver Keys and Honorable Mentions, winning 86 regional prizes. Eight of the Gold Key recipients won national-level recognition on March 13.
Founded in 1923, the awards – sponsored by the publishing company – recognize youth artists, writers, filmmakers, photographers, poets, sculptors, video game artists, science fiction writers, along with countless educators who support the creative process. Students across America submitted nearly 350,000 original works this year in 29 different categories of art and writing, according to the Scholastic Art website.
Supporting the next generation of artists
Debi Milligan’s classroom, a photography lab with its own dark room, is lined with photographs taken by former students who won Scholastic Awards. Milligan has taught photography at CRLS for 14 years and has participated in the awards since her first year. Her students have won awards each year.
Milligan believes the awards are a great opportunity for students and are a way of establishing who will be the next generation of artists. By guiding her students to make quality art and preparing them to create their submissions, they learn visual literacy, which she believes has become increasingly important.
“Knowing how to see and have the vocabulary for aesthetics opens up a whole new world,” she said.
Cambridge is great at making the arts more accessible for students and making sure everybody has equal opportunity, according to Milligan.
“It costs a lot to do the arts, you know, it’s not just a textbook, and we struggle with getting enough financial support,” she said. “Comparatively, we’re in great shape here.”
Finding their voice
Senior Jackson Hardin won two Gold Keys, which denote the best works submitted to a local program, and one Silver Key for photography. While he plans to major in engineering in college, Hardin said he loves photography as it is a different way of observing his surroundings.
“Seeing the world around you as if you were going to take a picture of it is a very different way of experiencing your environment,” he said during an interview at school.
He also believes being able to express oneself is a vital skill gained by participating in the arts, as well as a form of communication that can be done more easily than through other subjects.
“Teaching people to do something that’s not learned by rote or something that’s not formulaic is just a way of increasing mental flexibility,” he said. “It’s a good way to train your psyche to be able to tackle problems in a new different way.”
Ariel Maloney, an English teacher at CRLS, sponsored two of her students for the first time this year. She said she always encourages her students to submit their work, so she was proud to see her students take initiative by entering the contest. She believes an important part of her role as an English teacher is supporting students in expressing their full humanity.
“I think that the sharing of stories, the telling of stories, the finding our voice — that’s the thing that … sustains us,” she said.
One of Maloney’s junior students, Julian Knight, won a Gold Key in flash fiction, a highly-focused story less than 1,000 words. Though he is not entirely sure what he wants to do in college, writing is something that he wants to pursue regardless.
″[Writing] is very much something that’s self-created in that you’re sort of drawing from something that you have to discover yourself,” he said. “You’re having to create the inspiration and figure out how to form it into a series of ideas.”
The eight national winners in Cambridge include six from Buckingham Browne & Nichols School in Cambridge and two from CRLS:
— Halley Douglas, 11th grade, Silver Medal, short story, “Going Back to the Start”
— Claudia Inglessis, 12th grade, two Silver Medals, poetry, “today.” and “sigh”
— Yufan Liu, 12th grade (CRLS), Gold Medal, film and animation, “Surgery”
— Sylvia Murphy, 10th grade, Silver Medal, personal essay and memoir, “The Polyphonic Year”
— Sofia Picirillo, 8th grade, Gold Medal, short story, “Childhood, in the Eyes of an Old Woman”
— Emory Sabatini, 12th grade, Silver Medal, writing portfolio, “a collection of unrelated sentences: unrandom order”
— Laila Shadid, 11th grade, Gold Medal, personal essay and memoir, “Last Words”
— Sam Wachman, 12th grade (CRLS), Gold Medal, writing portfolio, “The Sketchbook”
To learn more about the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, visit artandwriting.org. For a full list of national winners, visit artandwriting.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/2018-National-Medals.pdf.