The Payoff of Pencil Shavings: The 2014 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards
Parents of athletes get to whoop and cheer from the sidelines of courts, fields and hockey arenas.
Score a basket, and parents go “YEAHHHHH!”
A kid slams a hockey puck past the goalie and parents get to yell “whooo hooo, GOAL!!”
I guess parents of artists need a place to cheer for their kids too. They found it last night at the Detroit Film Theater at the Detroit Institute of Arts, as hundreds of students in grades 7-12 received accolades at the 2014 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards Southeast Michigan Inductees ceremony.
The College for Creative Studies sponsors the Southeastern Michigan Art Region, which received over 4,000 works of art and almost 300 portfolios last year from 7-12 grade students in Wayne and Oakland Counties. Over 1,100 individual category works and 90 Portfolios were selected to receive Gold Keys, Silver Keys and Honorable Mention Awards. Winners of this award are in the company of other great artists like Andy Warhol and Richard Avedon. They won these awards in high school too.
Artists, friends and family members and teachers filled the theater to nearly standing room capacity. That is a lot of art supporters. Before the ceremony began, a huge projection screen looped images of the award-winning art, from photography to painting, to drawing, ceramics and jewelry design.
And if parents, or other fans in the room were lucky to look up and spot their child’s work, a huge “YEAH” could be heard. Just like at a sporting event.
Looking at the art, I cannot understand how some school districts see it as a frivolous subject that can be cut from a budget. Each work allowed the audience a glimpse of the world from inside another’s perspective. Think how many eyes have set sight on the world and still, there are so many unique ways of looking at the world around us, and to have the gift to express what they see and reflect it back to the rest of us, and to have schools that have maintained their budget for the arts, indeed a gift.
Again, I thought how fortunate we are to be able to live in a part of Michigan that values and has kept a strong visual art program. Again, my mind wandered to think about the districts which have shed the classes where students get to express themselves in their own unique way. Think of what they could express artistically if given the opportunity.
My daughter, in the throes of her Junior Year, at first could not be bothered with going to an award ceremony. After all, it was a Tuesday night at the beginning of the semester. She had hours of homework waiting for her. But we told her, no, getting recognized like this is what people LIVE for, and some things trump even doing homework.
When she was in Kindergarten, I took a book out the library about how to create art with pencils. It had different shading and cross-hatching techniques which I thought maybe a bit above her wee head, but I showed it to her anyway. We must have renewed that book three times. She sat with it and carefully copied the pictures for weeks.
Years and many boxes of pencils have passed. And with that, lots of pencil shavings. Some make it to the garbage, some don’t as evidenced by a mound of pencil shavings I recently found in the basement:
Competitions like the Scholastic Art & Writing program confirmed for my family what we’ve known for years: My daughter has been given a great talent to create art.
Attending the award ceremony confirmed there are lots of lots of kids with equal and greater talent also creating amazing art.
As each kid crossed the stage to accept their awards: some in conservative suits, others in the standard garb of an artist: black and more black with matching black combat boots, my heart soared with pride for them all. At the same time, it sank, and I wondered if my daughter, seated in a sea of this talent, felt the same weight of the competition. It is these same kids who she will be competing for scholarships, grants, and jobs in an economy which values and employs those pursuing the arts less and less each year.
I hope the world of art and design widens enough to absorb all of them and lucratively so.