BRATTLEBORO -- Not so long ago, this was the time of year when the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center went into hibernation, closing for a few weeks before it popped back open in the spring.
Right now, the museum's Wolf Kahn & Emily Mason Gallery teems with the expressive work of talented students in grades 7-12 from all over Vermont.
The exhibit of work by the 2014 Vermont winners of the prestigious Scholastic Art & Writing Awards is on view at the museum during regular hours and culminates in an Awards Ceremony on Saturday, March 8, at noon.
A trip to the museum while the exhibit is up reveals a diverse, expressive show of work in many forms, including photography, drawing, painting, printmaking, ceramics, digital media, sculpture and writing. The museum received 455 artworks from 129 students in 14 schools, including a healthy contingent from our area.
"This is something that, I would say, shows the best work being done in the state," said BMAC Education Curator Susan Calabria. "It shows that they are willing to take risks, and they like to explore. They're at this time when opportunities are opening up, and they're trying to express themselves. ... There's definitely a lot of personal expression."
A celebration of top student work, the exhibit is something more than that, including a chance to that work to be judged by working artists for regional and national honors.
Judges selected 10 Gold Key, 22 Silver Key and 41 Honorable Mention winners in visual art and another six Gold Key, 19 Silver Key and 16 Honorable Mention winners in writing. Versions of all Gold Key honorees are sent electronically for national adjudication by a panel of distinguished judges in New York City. Winners vie for awards and scholarships.
This represents the fourth year that the museum has served a regional host for all of Vermont, a commitment, Calabria says, the museum is pleased to make.
"It's a connection to students in Grades 7-12 all across the state. It's one way that we can offer to them the opportunity to compete for national awards and scholarships," said Calabria, who was, herself, a Gold Key winner in drawing as a youth. "We don't get a chance to see high-quality art that's done by students across the state anywhere else."
It's a chance, perhaps, to glimpse the work of important artists as they're just getting started. The Brattleboro Museum has featured exhibits of work by Andy Warhol and Red Grooms (whose whimsical hot dog vendor is still outside the museum). Both are alumni of the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, as are filmmaker Ken Burns, authors Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, John Updike, Sylvia Plath and Truman Capote, actors Robert Redford and John Lithgow and photographer Richard Avedon, to name just a few.
"Many Scholastic Award-winners go on to be artists or contributing members of our cultural community, and this is their first opportunity to get recognition," said Calabria.
Who the next big thing is, no one can say, but their work might be on view at the Brattleboro Museum right now.
Students from Brattleboro Union High School, Brattleboro Area Middle School, Leland & Gray, Marlboro Elementary, The Compass School, The Putney School and Vermont Academy all submitted work. Several homeschooled students did, as well.
Regional judges included Eric Aho, Mallory Lake and Martina Lantin in visual art, and Sydney Lea, Wyn Cooper, Verandah Porche, Castle Freeman and Arlene Distler in writing.
At the Awards Ceremony on March 8 at noon, Aho is guest speaker and Porche will read some of her poems and make a few remarks.
The exhibit is on view at the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center during regular hours: Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors, $4 for students and free for members and children under 6. Located in Union Station at 10 Vernon St., the museum is handicapped-accessible. For information, call 802-257-0124 or visit www.brattleboromuseum.org.
For more about the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, visit www.artandwriting.org.