Vermont teens recognized for excellence in art and writing

BRATTLEBORO — Truman Capote, Joyce Carol Oates, Lena Dunham, Stephen King, Andy Warhol and Robert Redford, along with 143 Vermont teenagers, have something in common.

Over the past 94 years, they've been some of the winners in the nation's longest-running and most prestigious scholarship program for creative teens. Run by a national non-profit and administrated in Vermont by the Brattleboro Museum and Arts Center, the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards (which have nothing to do with Scholastic Magazine) search out the most talented visual artists and writers in grades 7-12.

Students can submit ceramics, digital art, painting, photography, poetry, science fiction, personal essay/memoir and more. This year's regional winners in art and writing are already on display in three galleries at the museum. An awards ceremony will be held there on Sunday, March 5 at noon. The keynote speaker will be Roberto Lugo, a new ceramics professor at Marlboro College.

"Many of the award-winning students and their families will come down to Brattleboro to be given their certificates," said Danny Lichtenfeld, BMAC's executive director. "Some of the award winners in writing will have the opportunity to read their works."

The students compete on two levels, first regional and then national. All of Vermont is considered one region. Statewide awards consist of Gold Key, Silver Key, and Honorable Mention. The 143 winners of this year's Gold Key from Vermont are listed below. The winners of the national contest will be announced next month.

BMAC got involved in 2011 because no one was administrating the program here.

"It was an opportunity that kids in other parts of the country had, but not here," said BMAC Executive Director Danny Lichtenfeld. "Susan Calabria, who was our education curator until she retired, was a winner one year, so this was a program she was very familiar with. She had the idea that this was something we could do and it would be a valuable service for kids in grades 7 through 12. So we took that on. Now the program is being administered by our exhibitions manager, Sarah Freeman."

Since BMAC took it on, the Vermont program has been a big success. In 2015, Edil Hassan, a Somali refugee who was a Burlington High School senior, was one of 12 students nation-wide to win the highest possible writing award.

"She got some college scholarship money, was honored at an award ceremony at Carnegie Hall, and I think she was published," Lichtenfeld said.

The submission deadline is in December. In January the museum convenes panels of judges. One is for writing, one is for art, and another is for photographers.

"We have so many more photography submissions than for other art media," Lichtenfeld said.

This year the Windham County area produced many of the Gold Key winners. Brattleboro Memorial High School has eight, the Putney School has five, Vermont Academy has four, the Brattleboro Area Middle School has one, and Bellows Falls Union High School has one.

"This thing as been a really worthwhile thing to be doing," Lichtenfeld said. "Participation has been growing in terms of number of schools around the state that participate and the number of works. This year over 225 kids submitted a total of 737 artworks and pieces of writing. It's a great honor to have your work in the museum and get recognition that way, but it's even more exciting to have the possibility of recognition on the national level."

Joyce Marcel can be contacted at


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