The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards: What’s the Point?


Mariana Perez, Editor

Last year, an astonishing 56 Wauwatosa East students earned awards from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, more than any other school in the state of Wisconsin. This included seven Gold Keys, 17 Silver Keys, and 32 honorable mentions. When asked the question: “What does art mean to you?”, each and every student interviewed at Wauwatosa East High School responded with something along the lines of expression. Without art, numerous students would be lost in a world absent of the ability to healthily communicate their thoughts and emotions. Expression plays a crucial role in thriving as well as simply surviving life. It is clear that art is important and meaningful. Along with the importance of teens expressing themselves by creating art, it is equally as essential that they are given the chance to take this expression to a new level in order to reach a goal. Since 1928, the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards has given teenagers across the nation a great opportunity to take their work more seriously . With that being said, here is everything you need to know about the art portion of the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, the role it plays at East, how participating in the program positively impacts high school students, and the value of art as a whole in the lives of today’s youth.

Ms. Frederick is one of the art teachers at Tosa East who helps students choose their best work to submit to Scholastic. When interviewed, she gave insight on the Scholastic award program, stating that “it is a national competition sponsored by the Alliance for Artists and Writers that is juried at the regional level first. Gold Key winners go on to compete at a national level”. Regionally, students may also receive a Silver Key, Honorable Mention, American Voices Nominee, or American Visions Nominee award. Along with these awards, there are exhibitions and celebration ceremonies in each region. If one earns a Gold Key award, they are considered for Gold Medal and Silver Medal national awards. Each year, a ceremony takes place for the top students in New York City. Accompanying the ceremonies are guest speakers such as Oprah Winfrey, Alec Baldwin, Billy Collins, and Whoopi Goldberg. When determining who should be awarded, jurors look for signs of originality, skill, and personal voice or vision.

All of these traits, which may be shown through a piece of art, are well taught by the teachers at East High. After taking art courses throughout high school, Seniors are given the opportunity to take AP Studio; a class that allows them to explore their own ideas without as much structure as other classes have. During this course, students are expected to create six pieces of art to turn into Scholastic. They are pushed to do their best and, furthermore, to dive deeper into what they are trying to express in a work of art. Senior Libby Koss described AP Studio as a class that is “very rewarding. It’s also cool because it’s not just about art; It’s about yourself and the sustained investigation that you have to do.” Senior Amara Rappold enjoys how the class “allows all different types of mediums. I love the freedom I have”. Although AP Studio is an amazing way to learn how to create award-winning artwork, it is certainly not the only option for Tosa East students. Anyone participating in the art program may be asked by a teacher to submit their art to Scholastic regardless of age or the class that they are taking. The most important focus at East when it comes to the Scholastic program is that all art students are given the chance to benefit from it. Sophomore Felix Gilgannon, a student who submitted work to Scholastic, feels as if the Scholastic Awards were thoroughly explained to his illustration class. According to Gilgannon, his teacher “took a lot of time to explain the steps, how to get on the website, how to pay, and all that kind of stuff”.

The art program at Tosa East requires every AP Studio student to submit their art to this competition. According to Ms. Frederick, “One of the reasons we do it is to teach the subjective nature of the arts. We aren’t going to let any kid send off work that we don’t think is good. It’s really important to learn how to respond to rejection and when things don’t work”. Even though being selected to receive an award is highly competitive, simply partaking in this opportunity teaches important lessons to teens. For the students who do go on to win awards, a collection of amazing opportunities opens up. Frederick states that award recipients “may receive scholarships, get to have a national show, and be a part of the alumni of winners association. When you are a part of that association there are a lot of opportunities and grants possible. There’s also a lot of cash awards”. National Medalists are able to acquire up to 12,500 dollars in scholarship money. Additionally, Scholastic features various entered artwork in its publications. Art students at Tosa East agree that sending in their work to Scholastic can open up a window of possibilities, as well as teach a valuable lesson. Senior Evie Lowe describes this competition as a “cool opportunity”. Lowe stated, “I don’t really care about winning, I just think it’s cool to submit something”. In the interview with Gilgannon, he said, “I thought it was a good goal to work towards. I wanted to make my piece better because I want to win”.

It is obvious that the Scholastic Awards present possibilities and lessons, but why not obtain those things through a different method? Why choose the path of art? Circling back to the interview with Ms. Frederick, she stated, “I don’t think there’s a big distinction between being a human being and being an artist. I think there’s an artist within every student here and that tapping into that part of ourselves that wants to create is an essential part of being human”. Being an artist is one of the highest quality means of living. Especially in the lives of teenagers, art can hold so much value. According to Frederick, “It teaches students how to solve problems creatively, how to work through things that fail, how to defend their choices, and how to cope. It’s one avenue that kids can tap into as a way to respond to their surroundings”. In today’s world, a multitude of people are forced to hold so much difficult information inside of their heads. From the media to things happening right in front of them, many teens need an outlet to express either their feelings or what they know others are feeling. Senior Nich Jolie uses art to understand his emotions, stating that, “Having just a creative outlet in general is a really good thing. It also helps me conceptualize things better. Sometimes I need to draw to figure out what I’m thinking”. Rappold uses art to release her negative emotions. “If I’m feeling stressed out or anxious, I like to just sit down and make art”. Besides the benefit of being able to express oneself, art can be applied to countless facets of existence. When describing her future plans with art, Evie Lowe stated, “I’m not specifically pursuing art, but I’m definitely going to continue photography and editing in many aspects of my life”. Some Tosa East students were so moved by the art program that they’ve decided to base their career on being an artist. “I’m definitely going to go into art. I want to go to school for business and then with that I’ll be able to start my own business [with art]”.

The Scholastic Art Awards is a very unique opportunity that Wauwatosa East High School is honored to have access to. It is highly integrated into all art classes, and for a good reason. The program allows for life lessons, awards, scholarships, and the chance for recognition in the world of art.