Students exhibit award-winning art, writing

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Creativity thrives when it is nurtured. The Alliance for Young Artists & Writers exists to do exactly that through its Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. For the ninth year, the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center is the Vermont affiliate for this national program. Vermont students, ages 13 and up, in grades 7 through 12, whether public, private, or homeschool, can participate.

Winning entries will be on exhibit at the BMAC from Feb. 15 to March 2.

"We did a big mailing in the fall to every middle and high school in Vermont," said Sarah Freeman, exhibition manager at BMAC, who organizes the event. "Twenty different schools, including a homeschool, responded by the December 13, 2018, deadline, sending in 559 submissions. We were excited to receive submissions from a few schools who have never submitted before."

The Alliance for Young Artists & Writers was founded in 1923 by Maurice R. Robinson, according to the organization's website.

He wanted to honor " those high school students who demonstrate superior talent and achievement in things of the spirit and of the mind " in ways comparable to the awards and recognition given to adolescent athletes.

Many well-known artists and writers received Scholastic Awards when they were teenagers, including Richard Avedon, Ken Burns, Truman Capote, Joyce Carol Oates, Sylvia Plath, and Andy Warhol.

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Submissions are divided into art and writing, with multiple categories under each heading. Judges are all professionals in the appropriate field, Freeman explained, and all adjudication is done blind, without details of age, gender, or location of school. This year's judges were seven writers, three artists, and three photographers.

"The submissions are all judged here," Freeman said. "Art judging required two days. We get so many photo entries that photography judging required its own day. Judging the writing takes place digitally online. It takes a month to read and score the pieces. Each piece is read by at least two judges. And, of course, judges are expected to recuse themselves from judging any work they might recognize."

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The criteria for judging are originality, technical skill, and the emergence of a personal voice or vision. Awards are Gold Key (the very best works submitted locally), Silver Key (stand-out works showing exceptional ability submitted locally), and Honorable Mention (accomplished works showing great skill and potential submitted locally). Works receiving a local Gold Key automatically go on to national judging.

National medalists are celebrated at an awards ceremony at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

A list of the 2019 Vermont Scholastic Art & Writing Award winners by school or by last name is available on the BMAC website,, under the "Exhibits" tab, under "Current Exhibits."

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In 2012, the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers and the Institute of Museum and Library Services joined with the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities to initiate the National Student Poets Program. Each year, a panel selects five (one for each geographic region) young poets in grades 10 or 11 from those who have received a Gold or Silver National Medal. These five students serve as poetry ambassadors, traveling around their region and encouraging their peers to excel in their creative and academic endeavors. Each poet receives a $5,000 academic award.

Alexandra Contreras-Montesano, now a senior at Burlington High School, was the 2018 National Student Poet for the Northeast region.

The BMAC exhibit will culminate in an awards ceremony at noon Saturday, March 2. This year's keynote speaker will be Hilary B. Price, creator, writer and illustrator of the syndicated comic strip, "Rhymes with Orange." Contreras-Montesano will also give a reading of her original work. The ceremony is free and open to the public. Doors open at 10:30 a.m.

For more information on the Vermont Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, please contact Sarah Freeman at 802-257-0124 ext. 102 or

Nancy A. Olson, a frequent contributor to the Reformer, can be reached at


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