The Key to Success

Thirty-two artists recognized at Scholastic Art and Writing Reception
Kristin Min
Art students are recognized Jan. 28 at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School. Students entered pieces in a variety of categories including Ceramics and Glass, Drawing and Illustration, Digital Art and more.

Ceramic, digital art, photography, painting and drawing students submitted their work to the Scholastic Art and Writing competition Dec. 14. A month later, Jan. 28, 32 of these students and their artwork were honored at the Austin Texas Art Region awards reception that took place at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School. 

Artists submit pictures of their artwork along with a description to the competition where they are then judged. Entries at the regional level can earn an Honorable Mention, Silver Key or Gold Key. Pieces that earn Gold Keys are then eligible for national awards and can earn a Silver or Gold Medal. They are also eligible to receive an American Visions Nominee, an award that only five art entries per region receive. 

Twenty students received Honorable Mentions, 11 received a Silver Key, eight received Gold Keys and some students received multiple awards for different pieces. Junior Olivia Najera earned three Gold Keys and an American Visions Nomination for her work in ceramics. Najera’s piece that received the American Visions Nominatiation was “Internal Explosion,” a piece about the busyness of our minds.

“I brought up a quote from ‘Into the Wild’ [by] Chris McCandless about how in the world, we live in our minds; [they] are so taken over by all the things that are going on around us,” Najera said. “We never have time to just think or just be bored with ourselves in silence, there’s always something we’re worrying about. There’s always things that we’re thinking about, there’s people that we’re worried may think something weird of us. So it was like the progression of our brains [as] it becomes too much.”

Although Najera took inspiration from “Into the Wild” for one of her pieces, she notes how she often lets her art guide her.

“I honestly don’t think much about [the piece] as I’m making it. It’s more like my subconscious is making me make these things,” Najera said. “I don’t really plan out either. I don’t sketch before… I usually make a sketch after I make the piece because I don’t really have anything on my brain. I just like to make and see what comes of it.”

The Scholastic Art and Writing competition is one of two major competitions that art students participate in—the other being the Visual Art Scholastic Event (VASE). One major difference between the two competitions is that VASE requires students to be academically eligible to participate.

“It can be limiting for some students, particularly those who may struggle academically for one reason or another, but excel in their art classes,” ceramics and sculpture teacher Rebecca Thomas said. “I’ve had many students throughout the years that I think must be doing well in all their classes as they will carry a steady 100 in my class, only for me to belatedly discover that my class may be their only A or maybe even the only class they are passing… I am really grateful that the Scholastic Art and Writing competition doesn’t require academic eligibility so that my kids with a less than stellar academic standing can still receive attention and accolades for their artistic excellence.”

Since there are not many opportunities for art students to share their work aside from the gallery in the commons typically once a year, the Scholastic Art and Writing competition provides all art students a chance to be recognized for their hard work. Recognition for their work can encourage students to continue to take art classes, something that Thomas notes the importance of.

“Art classes can frequently be experienced as so much more than merely another class for so many kids,” Thomas said. “[It] can instead take on the role of helping to form their identity, helping them soothe anxieties and ease depression, and even give them a safe space where they are free to express things that language simply can’t.”

Most of Najera’s family is involved in art, a factor that encouraged her to take art classes herself as a freshman. However, ceramics is where Najera has really found herself and her own style.

“I feel so grateful to have part of my day [being] in this room where I can do whatever I want, create whatever I want instead of constantly worrying about classes or my grades, the future or college,” Najera said. “If I could stay in this room all day long, I swear I would never get bored. There’s always something to do.”

Art provides students with creative outlets and a chance to express themselves and Scholastic Art and Writing competition gives them an opportunity to share and be recognized for their work. Art students found great success at the competition with 32 students being recognized and eight students’ pieces moving onto the national level of judging.


Students who received awards and recognition were:

Honorable Mentions: Shay Alin, Lucy Brown, Georgia Bullock, Andrew Cannatti, Sofie Combs, Eva Davis, Andrew Fan, Elle Hodges (for two pieces), Zhilin Jiang (for two pieces), Olivia Jones, Rina Laby, Vanessa Law (for two pieces), Kelly Ma, London Nay, Naomi Page, Brayden Phipps, Gayatri Srinivasan, Jean Tilma, Milania Welsh, Sijie Yin

Silver Key Recipients: Lucy Brown, Georgia Bullock, Eva Davis (for two pieces), Andrew Fan (for two pieces), Luca Henson, Zhilin Jiang (for two pieces), Vanessa Law, Stormy Thomas, Emma Ton, Eli Wolfington, Sijie Yin

Gold Key Recipients: Julia Berend, Jasper Bouris, Lila Klocek, Eliana Lindow, Gaby Meza, Olivia Najera (for three pieces), Sol Segura, Eva Tosse

American Vision Nominee: Olivia Najera

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