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The dream of many artists is to see their work hanging one day in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. A group of promising high school students from across NYC are currently enjoying this achievement as winners of the 2021 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.
Organized with the nonprofit Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, the seventh annual Scholastic Art & Writing Awards: New York City Regional Exhibition is on view through May 21 at the Met’s Ruth and Harold D. Uris Center for Education. The exhibition, located in the Met’s Fifth Avenue building, is free to the public during regular museum hours.
Dating back to 1923, the Scholastic Awards are the longest-running recognition program for creative teens in the United States. Former recipients include artists like Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly, Kay WalkingStick, and John Baldessari, all of whom are now represented in the Met’s collection. Writers who had received the awards include Sylvia Plath, Truman Capote, and Joyce Carol Oates.
Nationally, more than 1,700 students received the award, among them 16 recipients of the program’s highest regional honor, the Gold Medal Portfolio Award, which comes with a $10,000 scholarship (the awards are split equally between visual artists and writers). The submissions were reviewed by a panel of more than 100 literary and visual arts professionals, who have selected works based on “originality, technical skill, and emergence of a personal voice or vision.”
In New York, more than 2,500 students in grades 7 through 12 submitted nearly 10,000 works to the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, representing over 300 schools in all five boroughs.
The exhibition features more than 200 artworks by recipients of the Gold Key Award in New York. Brianna Blue, a senior at Brooklyn’s Edward R. Murrow High School, is the winner of the top prize, the Gold Portfolio. Winners of the Gold Portfolio award from other regions include Maximo Guerra (Miami, Florida); Amellia Hausmann (Memphis, Tennesee); Myah Jackson-Solomon (Towson, Maryland); Alyvia Luong (Fort Wayne; Indiana); Hailey Petersen (Golden Valley, Minnesota); Nathan Yang (Los Angeles, California); and Helena Hockertz (Surrey, British Columbia, Canada).
“I was shocked to hear that I won the prize. It didn’t really set in until a few days later,” Blue told Hyperallergic in a phone interview.
Blue’s oil painting “The System” (2020), an affecting depiction of domestic abuse, is currently on view in the exhibition. At the center of the painting is a child surrounded by half-cut papayas, a fruit that represents fragility, according to Blue. A younger child is seen in the background, leaning against the wall in an ill-tempered posture. A somber feeling of a family crisis emanates from the intensely colored canvas, which appears to be depicting the point of view of an adult. The spectator can detect a bottle of alcohol at the door to the room in the painting’s right corner.
Blue, who also makes clay sculptures and embroidery works in her room, intends to continue her art education and pursue a career as a professional artist. The award has certainly provided a boost to her ambitions, including inquires from individuals who are interesting in purchasing her paintings.
When asked how it feels to be mentioned in the same breath with Warhol, Twombly, and Baldessari, Blue responded: “It feels crazy that I won an award for something that I consider an everyday activity.”
Other works in the exhibition are by New York students like Dylan Kelly (grade 11, Mary McDowell Friends School, Brooklyn); Edie Lipsey (grade 12, Saint Ann’s School, Brooklyn); Gabrielle Fischberg (grade 9, Horace Mann School, Bronx); Veronica Johnson (grade 12, High School of Art and Design, New York); and others. See a sampling of their works below: