Student Art Transforms Lives and ED

On Oct. 12, young artists from all across the nation convened at the U.S. Department of Education to be honored for their award-winning works of art and writing. The works of more than 50 of the 2012 winners of the 90-year-old Scholastic Art and Writing Awards competition—comprising photography, portraiture, multi-media, 3-D work, film, animation, teen writing and game design—are currently exhibited at both the Department of Education and the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities headquarters in Washington D.C. The competition is sponsored by the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers.

Ribbon Cutting

Student artists officially open the exhibit by cutting the ribbon.

With eagerness and jubilation, students, families, and teachers arrived at the Department early that Friday morning to participate in workshops on video game design and on best practices in teaching art, to watch the winning films, and to be honored for their artistic achievements. For the Kim family that left New York City at 2 a.m. to travel to the opening, the excitement of coming to Washington D.C. to be honored for a national award took precedence over any fatigue incurred. Eager to experience the festivities of the day, award winner Alex Kim, with his proud father standing by his side, stated, “This has been such a great honor. I can’t express in words what it means to be here right now and be honored by the U.S. Department of Education and Scholastic for something that I created and am so passionate about.”

With the auditorium at ED headquarters filled to capacity, the students received congratulatory remarks by the leaders of the U.S. Department of Education, the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers, and the National Art Education Association (Read Under Secretary Martha Kanter’s blog about the event). After the last student introduction was completed, the students—filled with excitement and anticipation—marched towards the exit and officially opened the art exhibit by ceremoniously cutting the ribbon. Smiles and laughter abounded as the students filed through the auditorium doors to stand beside their works displayed on the walls, in sculpture boxes, and on TV monitors and Kindles.

Alexandria Bennett, an award winner from Saint Petersburg High School in Saint Petersburg, Fla., stated that the inspiration behind her piece, Johnny from Haiti, was a young Haitian boy she met while on a mission trip to Haiti with her church. Continued correspondence allowed her to develop a friendship with him and to depict his experience through her eyes. Alexandria hopes that her work will inspire others to creatively reflect on and tell about their transformational life experiences. While reflecting on her experience in Haiti and how it inspired her artistically, Alexandria stated, “With many students experiencing hardships in their daily lives, hopefully the arts will help some of them to develop a new perspective on how they believe that the world should be.”

Shannon Levin

Shannon Levin poses for a photo with her portrait, Look at Me Now.

Shannon Levin’s portrait, Look at Me Now, shows a smile that is far from one usually seen.  When asked about the inspiration behind the work, JoAnn Onnembo, Levin’s art teacher from Bergen Academies in Hackensack, N.J., provided the following interpretation: “ Shannon’s art is aiming to stop you in your tracks as it is very colorful […] many times people are judged unfairly for their appearance. Smiles usually draw you in, but this smile will startle you.”

Throughout the ceremony, the young artists and writers were asked to think about how they will use their artistic talents when they embark on their future careers. A few offered ideas about how they believe art transforms life.

“Art gives life a different perspective. It shows how spontaneous life is and how you can’t plan for certain things.” —Aisling Flaherty, The Dalton School, New York, N.Y.

“Art will help people express themselves. In life it is important for people to share what they feel and think.”— Megan Oppenheim, The Mirman School, Los Angeles, Calif.

Click here to view additional photos from the event.

Chareese Ross is an Information Resource Specialist in the Office of Communications and Outreach and is on temporary assignment with the Student Art Exhibit Program.

The Department’s Student Art Exhibit Program provides students and teachers an opportunity to display creative work from the classroom in a highly public place that honors their work as an effective path to learning and knowledge for all. To visit the exhibits or for information about exhibiting contact Jackye Zimmermann at 202-401-0762 or at