Rosemary Buffington runs the Mid-Central Illinois Region of the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. In the interview below, Rosemary shares her experience on starting a regional affiliate, what has been most rewarding, and how the Mid-Central Illinois Region honors their Gold Key recipients.
How long have you been part of the affiliate network? What inspired you to become an affiliate?
I’ve been part of the affiliate network since 1984. When I was married in 1983, I asked my new husband Rod Buffington, a former instructor at Eastern Illinois University who ran an art gallery in a small shopping area in Springfield, if he would start a Scholastic Awards region.
He’d been a juror for the nearby region in Champaign at the Robson Department Store for many years and knew the program well. But Springfield and the mid-section of Illinois had never had a regional affiliate, so he inquired and was told that he needed a population of a million people. Decatur and Springfield were the largest cities with many smaller cities to the south of Springfield, including Greenville, Hillsboro and, to the west, Jacksonville. Since the region was in the center of the state, it was named the Mid-Central Illinois Region.
The region grew as more schools became involved. My husband was the first Chairman of the Board and I was on the Board as an art teacher in a small rural school. There were two other chairs, David Shaw and Mary Ellen Strack, before I became chair in 2004.
The Board increased our region to include counties with the Peoria and Bloomington schools. These schools have sent increasingly more work each year, which has given us new, talented students and enhanced the exhibition.
What is your personal experience with the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards? Did you know about it as a teen and participate?
I learned about the Scholastic Awards as an art teacher since the Awards were known for their prestigious exhibition and high-quality work. I always strived to get the best work out of my students and thought that they would benefit from participating in the program.
What’s been the most rewarding experience so far as an affiliate?
I think the most rewarding experience for me so far was attending the national exhibit in New York City and seeing one of my student’s artwork on the wall. I taught for 37 years in a rural school of 230 students and for my student to have a piece of art in the national exhibition was very special. I had several students receive awards nationally, but only went to the exhibition in New York one time.
How do you choose the jurors you work with?
The Board selects the jurors from a list of possible people, including teachers in junior and senior high schools, college professors and artists. We aim for a balanced combination of arts educators and practicing artists.
Can you share a surprising fact about you, your organization or your region that readers might not know?
One of the most unique aspects of our Mid-Central Illinois region is that we have an Honors Day for all Gold Key recipients and their art teachers. Even teachers who submitted work without a Gold Key recipient are invited to bring two students to the event. Honors Day begins at 9:30am when students and teachers get a sheet of paper that they use to create a doodle art piece that is later judged. Winners receive donated art supplies. (This is a very popular part of the day!)
At 10:00am, students attend a workshop of their choice, including presentations by local artists on various media. We try to give the teachers and students a medium that they don’t experience at their school. At lunch, there’s time for students and teachers to travel to see the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards exhibition and to retrieve their work. Later, the prizes for the Doodle Art are chosen by each student winner and then a second workshop takes place. The day ends at 2:30pm. Honors Day is great for both students and teachers.
I’ve always loved the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and hope that it continues in this area for many years to come.