Nick in "The Light in the Piazza." Photo Credit: Laura Durant

Primary role:

Nick Cartell’s primary role at the Alliance is preparing for the Awards by scanning in entry forms and answering questions from students, parents and teachers (if you called into the office you probably spoke with him at as some point!). Nick also helps facilitate regional and national judging panels, and organize and manage Awards Central. (He was behind the Help Desk, in case you were wondering.) Nick also does his best to make sure we can get as many people into Carnegie Hall as possible for the ceremony, and is currently in the process of mailing out all of the medals and certificates for this year. Don’t worry, they’re on their way! Nick also works on anything else that comes up on a day-to-day basis here at the Alliance. …Wow, that really is a lot!

Secret fact:

Nick is an actor and has worked Off-Broadway in Frankenstein, the musical. He even made it onto the cast album, and regionally across the country in different theatre venues. Nick also performed with Disney, working as a singer at Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea for three years, which is where he met his wife, also a performer. Check out his website at www.nickcartell.com where you’ll see some of his special skills include baby cry, Mickey Mouse voice, balloon animals and puppetry!
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Alliance Board Member, Dwight E. Lee, Executive Director, Virginia McEnerney, Alliance Board Member, Gaynor Strachan-Chun, Scholastic CEO, Dick Robinson. Photo by Ronnie Wright.

It’s hard to believe that when the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards were begun in 1923 there were just six entries. This year, 185,000 works of art and writing were submitted to the Awards by students in grades 7 – 12 from around the country and in American schools abroad. Professional artists and writers were put to task selecting those that best exemplified our time-honored criteria of originality, technical skill and the emergence of a personal vision or voice. And when they were finished, we were wowed by another year of artistic and literary excellence.

Tonight our 2011 National Award winners join an elite group of alumni including Richard Avedon, Truman Capote, Sylvia Plath, Zac Posen, Robert Redford, Kay WalkingStick, Philip Pearlstein, Andy Warhol and the accomplished alumnus who will receive our Alumni Achievement Award, the renowned conceptual artist John Baldessari.
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Alex Tapnio, Senior Manager of National Programs

Primary role:

Alex Tapnio has been with the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers since 2003 as part of the programs team and over the years has become a maven of sorts for the Awards. Now, as the Senior Manager of National Programs, he collaborates with a team of dedicated staff to create recognition, exhibition, publication and scholarship opportunities for national Scholastic Awards winners. His favorite part of his job is working with scholarship partners to provide national winners with tuition support for their achievements in the Awards.

Secret fact:

Alex has vast knowledge in how to taxidermy animals! While struggling to find a career that could suit both his art history and biology majors, he worked in natural history museums preserving animals for scientific study and exhibition displays. No, not the deer or moose heads you’ll find on a hunter’s wall or at a tacky restaurant—fresh out of college, he played with dead snails, birds, fishes and even dinosaur bones. For snails, he recommends fixing in formalin and then switching to methyl hydrate. Kids, don’t do this at home without consulting a scientist!
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Dominic with Yogurt the cat

Primary role:

As the Alliance’s web producer, Dominic Matar makes everyone’s life easier by building or improving our online tools and making sure everything works. He determines the Alliance’s needs, defines project scopes and works closely with a small team of fantastic programmers to bring them to life. He’s also pretty handy when a computer crashes!

Secret fact:

Outside of the Alliance, Dominic’s life is all about songwriting and soundtracks. He is currently at work on his fourth album called Carloman, which he describes as “pre-baroque indie pop”. Dominic also composes for commercials, documentaries and whatever else comes his way, and is working on his first feature-length soundtrack.
Listen to one of Dominic’s tracks, The Traveler, here.
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Katie Babick with Clifford.

Primary role: As Project Administrator, Katie does a little bit of everything at the Alliance.  She primarily assists the Executive Director with various projects and coordinates the Alliance’s participation at national conventions.  Working with the students, teachers and parents who participate in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards is Katie’s favorite part of her job.

Secret fact: Katie has always wanted to be an aerial contortionist for Cirque du Soleil!

Katie: Creativity has always played a large role in my life. Read More

Venas Matthews-Bazin, Senior Manager of External Relations. (Credit: Alliance for Young Artists & Writers).

Primary role: As Senior Manager of External Relations, Venas Matthews-Bazin oversees all components of meetings and events here at the Alliance. Her keen attention to detail and communication skills play a big role as she works with multiple venues, negotiates contracts with vendors, selects event locations, determines the design and layout of event spaces, and oversees the audio-visual and special effects for programs. In addition, she’s in charge of organizing, launching and managing the Alliance’s fundraising campaigns, including the Gold Key Society and the Friends of the Alliance. Her job might sound tough, but she also gets to sample and select all of the yummy catering menus for events too!

Secret fact: Venas always wanted to be a lawyer. She also wanted to be a gymnast until five years ago when she actually practiced again on the uneven parallel bar.

Venas: One of my favorite quotes is from Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Before coming to the Alliance, I worked for Time Warner, The Apollo and MTV Networks—and when I say Networks I mean the whole company of MTV brands. Read More