Each September brings a special day at the U.S. Department of Education: a day when the marble halls and foyers of the agency’s headquarters fill with excited crowds of students, teachers, families, local and visiting officials, and passionate supporters of the arts.
This year was no exception: on Friday, Sept. 19, winners of the 2014 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards were honored for their accomplishments. The Department sponsored the opening of two exhibits, one of awardees from around the country and one of Portland, Ore., awardees, with a total of 80 works of art. Among the honorees were the five newly chosen National Student Poets.
The day began with two workshops — one in the visual arts for the teachers of student winners, and one in poetry for the student winners.
Nancy D. Hoover, art director of the Girls’ School of Austin, had traveled to the Nation’s Capital to honor her student Alabel Chapin, who won a Gold Award for her piece Wearing Her Heart on Her Sleeve. In eighth grade when she made this painting based on a photograph she took, Chapin was inspired, said Hoover, by a third-grade schoolmate named Pippa. When asked why Pippa’s expression is so sassy, Hoover said she had an attitude, perfectly captured in this painting, because she did not want to be photographed in her nightgown. According to Chapin, who was in rehearsal at the Austin Ballet the day of the opening, “Most of the time I don’t like to paint traditional or pretty images. It feels more human to paint people with imperfections.”
Also in attendance were Melvin Butler and Terri Jenkins of Stone Branch School of Art in Rockville, Md., to honor Butler’s student Juneau Kim, the winner of a Gold medal in Comic Art for Kicking Craters. Butler says he asks students to develop a character, story and sketch to show how to express tension, conflict and issues, and how to resolve them using comic style. Juneau, who was also at the opening, explained his work, “In art,” he said, “it’s hard thinking of an idea and way harder getting your idea on paper. … Art-making can be tedious, which is how my character feels on his lonely planet. … But once you get ideas and draw them out, everything starts to come together. … This is how my character felt when he realized he was not alone.”
Acclaimed poet Glenis Redmond, along with the five National Student Poets, led a workshop on writing poetry. She spoke to the level of sensitivity all artists have and how it can be transferred to both their visual art and poetry. “When you see blue,” she said, “you don’t just see blue, you see turquoise, teal, and cobalt.” Redmond taught the students about praise poems, which allow authors to explore themselves through positive connections with their present and past. After facilitating a word-play brainstorm, she showed the class the interesting self-description combinations that can be created. The students then composed their own praise poems.
Nyanna Johnson from Dayton, Ohio, offered her praise poem:
Johnson said she’d been moved by the artistic energy of the other students and Redmond.
In the inspiring company of the Scholastic Art & Writing Award winners, Jamienne Studley, ED’s deputy under secretary of education, reflected that, “Creative thought matters. It matters in peace negotiations, in science labs, in city hall, just as it does on stage or in the art studio.” Reminding the audience that these students practice critical thinking, understanding other perspectives, communication and problem solving, she addressed the students, saying, “Your art and poetry are examples of the highest form of each one of these. Today, you, right here, are the artists and poets who are expanding horizons for your generation.”
Virginia McEnerney, executive director of the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers, further acclaimed the students’ work, “What I often hear from judges of the Scholastic Awards is that your work gives them hope for the future of the arts. … [and] the track record of these awards would indicate that you are on a very good path to taking us, as a country, into the future with creativity and innovation, the core of our success.” Rachel Goslins, executive director of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, concluded, saying, “Arts education is not something different or separate from education; arts education is a … critical part of education.”
Click here to see additional photos from the exhibit opening.
All photos are by Tony Hitchcock.
Jackye Zimmermann is director of ED’s 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 firstname.lastname@example.org/.