Sixteen years ago, the local Scholastic Art & Writing Awards program was in danger of disappearing from Jennifer Baldwin’s region of Erlanger, Kentucky. The local organization that hosted it in the past announced it would no longer be running the program. Jennifer, just settling into a new high school teaching position, wasn’t about to let The Awards go without a fight. “All of those years students spent developing their portfolios for possible scholarship consideration evaporated in that cancellation letter,” she recalls. ”I didn’t know exactly how I would do this, but I wasn’t afraid to try.” Read More

The Alliance’s main office is located in New York City, but our Regional Affiliates can be found around the country. Here’s the scoop on the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, our local partner running the regional Scholastic Art & Writing Awards in Northeast Indiana and Northwest Ohio.

The Fort Wayne Museum of Art has been involved in The Scholastic Art Awards for the last ten years. Starting as an exhibition space for local Scholastic Award-winning work, the Museum’s role expanded in 2004 to become a full-time Affiliate under the dynamic leadership of Max Meyer, Curator of Children and Family Programs and Joslyn Elliott, Director and Associate of K-12 Education. Expansion has been the key word: in its first year, the region received 1,100 individual entries and 20 portfolios. Read More

Today’s guest blogger, Alliance staff member Kat Hendrix, works with our Regional Affiliates nationwide. Our Regional Affiliates are some of the hardworking people behind The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards – and also an important part of our history.

For the last three years, as the Senior Manager of Affiliate Network & Partnerships, I’ve worked with the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers’ Regional Affiliates across the country. These are the wonderful people that work behind the scenes to make The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards a rewarding opportunity for their communities. They dedicate late nights and weekends to help students and teachers learn about the program, support them in the submission process, convene panels of professional jurors and provide exhibition opportunities and public ceremonies. Their hard work results in thousands of student submissions each year. Today, this robust network encompasses almost 100 organizations, including museums, nonprofits, school systems, newspapers and universities – a big change from the days when the program was run by two people out of an office in Pittsburgh.

The Regional Affiliate Network has a rich, fascinating history. In 1923, The Scholastic Awards were founded in Pittsburgh as a small writing program by a visionary man (and Scholastic Inc.’s founder) Maurice R. Robinson. A few years later, The Awards expanded to include visual arts; in 1928, an exhibition of Award recipients was held at Carnegie Institute’s Fine Arts Galleries. The program grew over time from dozens of entries, to hundreds, to thousands, to tens of thousands. In 1940-41, department stores were invited to sponsor a regional exhibition, and within a few years more than 50 department stores, newspapers, shopping centers and TV stations sponsored regional programs. This enabled thousands more students to participate and expanded the exhibition opportunities to local communities. Through this growing network, the number of people administering the program increased from the 2 or 3 individuals at the Scholastic offices in Pittsburgh to dozens more people across the country associated with a multitude of organizations.

It’s always people behind the institutions that provide the structure to move ambitions forward. In light of that, on behalf of the Alliance staff, we’re sending a big thank you to all of the Regional Affiliates for your daily inspiration and the selfless work that you do on behalf of teenagers with creative talent across the country. Your efforts do not go unnoticed.

If you are interested in learning more about the Regional Affiliate Network of the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, please contact me at khendrix(at)artandwriting(dot)org.

~Kat Hendrix
Senior Manager, Regional Affiliate Network & Partnerships

Photo, above: Visitors view work on display at student exhibition organized by Fort Wayne, Indiana Regional Affiliate Fort Wayne Museum of Art.

Every year, individuals who help coordinate The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards in Massachusetts are charged with a unique mission: find the strangest or most outrageous student submission. With almost 60 years of history, these coordinators have seen their share of interesting work!

“Each year we are blessed with all types of unique art works. Some pieces have comedic value. Other work is dramatic and thought provoking,” says Massachusetts Art Region Coordinator Tim O’Connor. “We remember a very unusual portfolio which won a $50,000 Binney & Smith and Scholastic scholarship. It was a series of paintings and sculptures with headless men in black suits – some with bowler hats.” This year, a Medford student created and submitted a sculptural dress using photocopied dollar bills – inspired by the outrageous fashion of pop star Lady Gaga.

The Massachusetts Art Region celebrated its 60th Anniversary this year and has a long history of sponsorship by The Boston Globe. In the early 1990s, teacher Dr. John Michael Gray adopted the program under the auspices of the New England Art Education Conference, Inc. and joined forces with his partner, Tim O’Connor, to co-manage the program. Sixty years later, the region is thriving more than ever with the highest number of submissions in its history this year (10,000 works of art!).

The region has also had a profound impact on art programs in Massachusetts. In secondary schools around the state, quality art work is often referred to as “Globe show work.” “In other words, there is a basic correlation between what is thought to be excellent art work and its connection to the Scholastic Art Awards program,” explains O’Connor. “Art programs that have been successful in The Scholastic Awards program continue to receive funding and support.” In addition, thousands of visitors view the annual regional exhibition, and students and teachers are celebrated at a ceremony.

Their favorite part of running the program? “Knowing that we are making a difference in keeping art education alive and well in Massachusetts,” says O’Connor.

During the 2010 National Events, Gray and O’Connor will accept the Excellence in the Field Award, given annually to an outstanding Affiliate for their service to The Awards.

Photo, above: Massachusetts Regional Affiliate Coordinators Dr. John Michael Gray and Tim O’Connor model floral hats.

The Bronx has bought us its fair share of artists, writers and cultural phenomena: hip hop, Stanley Kubrick, Jennifer Lopez and Ralph Lauren all hail from this New York City borough. But one of the Bronx’s best kept secrets is the Casita Maria Center for Arts Education, a cultural organization founded in 1934 by Claire and Elizabeth Sullivan, public school teachers and cousins of TV personality Ed Sullivan. Not only does Casita Maria empower over 2,500 members of the community with their education, art and social services, but they also administer The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards for the entire city of New York! Read More

Our Regional Affiliate in Portland, Oregon and full-time art teacher Shannon McBride likens the development of young artists to training a little league baseball team. “If we develop a strong little league team, we are going to have an amazing baseball team in the future,” she says. “Junior and high school students are just beginning to create a sense of self. I want them to believe in their creative selves, to cultivate their inner artists. I told the jurors this year that these students represent our ‘little league team.’ ”
Since Shannon and the volunteer-run Oregon Art Education Association took over the local Scholastic Art & Writing Awards program five years ago, it’s seen incredible growth: from 300 submissions in its first year to over 3,000 submissions from over 1,180 students in 59 different schools this year. Oh, and did we mention Shannon is also an amateur axe thrower?

As a Regional Affiliate with the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, Shannon is responsible for processing student submissions, organizing panels of professional artists to judge the work, supporting her fellow teachers and coordinating exhibitions and ceremonies for the Award-winning students in her region. The exhibition of Award-winning student art is hosted annually at the Pacific Northwest College of Art , and they report that it’s one of their most popular events of the year. Student artwork tackles a range of themes from identity, current events, imagination and real-life experience. Shannon recalls a simple but powerful concept piece she saw during this year’s adjudication – a piece of white paper ripped out of a spiral notebook. “At first glance, it was nothing special, until you realize that the student had documented their experience with a grandmother who had Alzheimer’s. The piece represented 30 days of writing, erased one day at a time, then gessoed over and started again – very powerful.”


Though the demands of administering a local awards program as a volunteer can be challenging, Shannon says, “When I get discouraged I think about all the student artists. I think about the moms that ride three buses to come to the reception to see their child’s art work, and the tears of joy when a student receives a scholarship that will allow them to pursue their artistic dreams, and the students’ faces the night of the reception, the pride, the excitement.”
In addition to support from the Alliance and Oregon Art Education Association, the program has also been able to grow with support from corporate sponsors. “Ovation TV was a huge part of our success this year. We received 12 $200 gift cards to give to our teachers. To know that there are companies out there that ‘get it’ and then show that appreciation to teachers and students is a blessing.”
Past students from Shannon’s region have gone on to pursue degrees and creative careers in the arts, and one is even a back-up dancer with pop star Lady Gaga. So what does the future look like for this year’s students? “The recognition they receive from The Awards is immeasurable and most of the time intangible. I’ve been teaching for 21 years. I believe in the power of this program, and it’s made a profound impact on the way I teach and what I teach; it challenges me as an educator to raise the bar, work harder.”
To see more artwork from Portland, Oregon, visit their online gallery.

Though the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers is a nonprofit organization based in New York City, we work with 96 Regional Affiliates around the country to run The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards state by state. These affiliates include newspapers, libraries, nonprofit organizations and art centers.