by DeeGee Lester
On February 4, ceremonies for the Annual Scholastic Arts Competition honored the achievements of emerging artists from 262 area schools. For the 26th year, Cheekwood hosted and Tennessee Credit Union sponsored this much-anticipated event. The competition, launched in 1923 by Scholastic Company founder Maurice Robinson, judges student work (grades 7–12) on originality, technical skill, and the emergence of a personal voice.
Students submitted 1,465 entries across a variety of mediums, including painting, sculpture, ceramics and glass, digital art, comic art, drawing/illustration, photography, printmaking, and mixed media. In the 2017 competition, 49 Gold Key Awards, 99 Silver Key Awards, and 203 Honorable Mentions were captured by Middle Tennessee students, in addition to the recognition of five American Vision Nominees whose work qualifies as national finalists in the American Vision Awards in New York. Over $6,000 in combined scholarships has also been awarded to each of these outstanding artists from O’More College of Design, Watkins College of Art, Design and Film, and Nossi College of Art.
“For the past 26 years, Cheekwood has been a proud host of the Scholastic Art Competition, which celebrates the impressive works of art being created in our schools,” said Jane MacLeod, Cheekwood President and CEO. Recognition of student achievement in the arts continues through March 5 with the display of works by Gold Key Award recipients in Cheekwood’s Frist Learning Center Courtyard Gallery.
American Vision Nominees
Jenna Lowe, Diving Deeper (Drawing/Illustration)
Junior, Brentwood High School
Jenna Lowe’s pathway to an American Vision Nomination began as a summer project, creating portrait pieces using a mechanical pencil. But when her efforts caught the eye of a friend, she achieved one of the hallmarks of art—capturing a moment that connects art and life.
“My friend’s mom liked the detail in the portraits and asked if I could blow up a special photo of her husband’s mother from the 1920s using the same techniques,” Lowe says. “Basically, I make a copy of the original photo in order to grid it proportionally to my larger paper. Then I start drawing according to each box in the gridded photo and go from there. I don’t like the effect of the pencil underneath, so I just start drawing with charcoal.”
Following a year in Art I, and through these summer projects, Lowe discovered the joy of realism available to her through drawing/illustration. “I’ve also discovered that art is a way to de-stress with the pressure of AP classes,” she says.
She admits that she was unfamiliar with Scholastic before submitting two pieces into the competition, which captured a Gold Key and Silver Key. “I was surprised by the American Vision Nomination,” she says. “It has really boosted my confidence. Now I’ve started looking at ways to put my art out there and make money from it.”
Richard White, Untitled (Drawing/Illustration)
Senior, Montgomery Bell Academy
“Shocked; I couldn’t believe it,” is the way Richard White describes finding out that his work of art captured a Gold Key and the prestigious American Vision Nomination. “My mom called and told me. I was totally unaware of the competition. My teacher, Erin Valentine, had submitted it.
“It began as a class assignment to create a drawing/illustration from an old LIFE magazine photo combined with the image from a painting,” White says. “I chose a picture from a World War II issue, showing U.S. Army troops marching, and combined it with the Diego Velázquez painting The Surrender of Breda (1634–35), making a collage of the two.” In creating the piece, he made a scratchboard of black material and used a blade to reveal the white underneath.
Although White admits enjoying art and art history, he sees it as a hobby. His future plans include pursuing business next year at Wake Forest University, and he sees the classical curriculum at MBA as excellent preparation for the rigors of college and development of a broad world view. “I think art helps in understanding cultures and world history,” he says. “My regret is in not taking it sooner in high school.”
Grace Hall, Fish Dinner (Drawing/Illustration)
Senior, Hendersonville High School
The Irish say, “What’s bred in the bone will out.” Hendersonville’s Grace Hall is living proof. “Art is in my veins,” she says. Both parents studied Visual Arts in New York and her father works as a digital artist.
With an eye toward a career in art, Hall, a National Merit Scholar, is making her college selection from several prestigious art schools, including the Art Institute in Chicago. Her recent double Gold Key Awards in drawing/
illustration and printmaking, as well as the American Vision Nomination are testimony to her devotion to creativity and excellence.
Fish Dinner was a submission for her AP portfolio, meeting a requirement. “It’s funny that I got the American Vision Nomination for something I don’t regularly do,” says Hall, who appreciated the rigors of the scholastic competition. “I was shocked to be in the top five, especially after seeing the work of all of these talented people.”
From an 8th grade experience as a People to People Student Ambassador exploring art in Italy, Greece, and France, to grasping opportunities around her, Hall demonstrates a curiosity and a passion for art. “I like pleasing people with my art, and I’ve gotten to do a lot of things this year, from attending Governor’s School and painting a ceiling board for the U.S. Army, to creating poster art, stickers, and other promotional materials for the funk band Broomstix. It’s all pretty exciting.”
Talia Barton, Ru (Photography)
Junior, University School of Nashville
In an era of capturing images with a cell phone, Talia Barton demonstrates the care, attention, and thoughtful process of camera photography.
Attracted to photography since her freshman year, Talia admits, “I don’t use the phone for my photography.” She is amassing a collection of cameras, including one from the 1930s. Proof of her experimentation with lighting and effects can be seen in two Gold Key Award-winning submissions including the American Vision Award Nominee Ru.
That image of her 11-year-old cousin was part of a series photographed with friends in her back yard that offered eerie images by using lights coming through bamboo. It’s an example of her spontaneity in utilizing what is readily available to her lens. The second winning submission captured shadows on a water tank. She is also proud of a two-part photograph echoing a diptych in painting. Entitled Old Time, it combines an attic pose of a male friend in an old ball gown, matched with a picture of an old building in Vermont—the two images wedded with a color overlay
Barton plans to attend college with a focus on science or gender studies, but will continue enjoying photography as a hobby. “I really like the focus on detail, learning new techniques, and my time in the darkroom, which is nice and calming.”
Olivia Defazio, Listerine (Digital Art)
Junior, Home School
Young people are finding more ways to jump-start their careers. Although Olivia Defazio enjoyed her experience at Summit High School in Spring Hill and the excellence of her teachers and peers in art classes, she opted this year for home schooling and the opportunity to continue art with First Light Academy and her long-time teacher Dennas Davis.
“I’ve been going there since I was six, and the switch to home schooling and online classes gives me flexibility and more time to focus on my art,” she says. “Now, I have time to work on commissions, to stop and draw when I want to, and to explore ways to express my own voice through art and music.”
Defazio’s American Vision Nomination offers the unusual effect of hand painting on top of the drawing. The subject was based on the story of a prolific Massachusetts arsonist nicknamed “Johnny Cool” who ended up in the witness protection program. “The title, Listerine, is a reference to cleaning yourself,” she explains.
In addition to a Gold Key Award and the American Vision Nomination, the piece captured the coveted cover for the Scholastic Awards event. “It’s a funny feeling to walk into the room and see everyone holding your art,” Defazio says.