PAEP hosted the 2019 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, in collaboration with its partner, the Philadelphia Writing Project, on March 30th at the School District of Philadelphia. This year marks the 11th time PAEP has administered the program in Philadelphia on Scholastic’s behalf. The 2019 awards received over 2,000 entries in visual arts, the highest tally to date in that category, and nearly 1,000 entries in writing. The students’ work was judged by a renowned panel of artists and arts educators, who based their scores on originality, technical skill and personal expression. Megan Lafferty, PAEP Director of Administration, greeted guests and served as master of ceremonies.
Philadelphia City Councilman At-Large David Oh, a longtime supporter of the program, was also at the ceremony and acknowledged the students’ accomplishments. In his speech, he praised their creative thinking, expression and individuality, whether it was shown through art or writing. “Our investment in the future is an investment well served,” he said, “when we invest in all of you [the students].”
Daniel Embree, director of national programs for the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, the nonprofit organization which heads the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards alongside its local partners, was also onhand to attend the ceremony. He acknowledged that judges, artists, writers, professionals, and creatives had looked at the students’ work and decided, “This is special. What this student is saying is special.”
Dr. Diane Waff, director of the Philadelphia Writing Project, echoed David’s sentiments. She acknowledged the trail blazed by other Gold Key winners like Truman Capote, Sylvia Plath and Philadelphia’s own Husnaa Hashim, saying that the students now join their legacy. Winners of the competition often go on to become painters, graphic designers, museum curators, entrepreneurs, scientists and teachers, she said. “But whatever you choose,” she added, “I hope your Scholastic Award today will fuel your dreams and enable your creative pursuits.”
Gold Key winners, recipients of the highest honor, also had a chance to present their work. Marina Garagozzo, a junior at Friends Select School, submitted “Mia Cara Madre,” a mixed-media painting of her mother and “moi!,” a plaster cast of her own face. “Last year, I competed but I got a Silver Key and an Honorable Mention. This is my first time getting a Gold Key,” she said.
Keshawna Logan, a senior at Souderton Area High School, submitted a visual art submission for the first time called “Senior Year: Caught in the Whirlwind,” a self portrait. “It was about figuring out my future after high school,” she said. “The background is very swirly because I’m confused [about] what’s gonna happen.”
“Painting myself was very different—I’ve never painted myself before,” she added. “But I enjoyed doing it. It was lots of fun for me.”
Ali Meltzer, a junior at Wissahickon High School, submitted an essay titled “Big Fish and Second Chances.” “I was examining the true nature of education as seen, both, in my experiences and anecdotally from a rabbi that I met who, kind of, changed me a lot,” she said as she laughed.
“I submitted some stuff last year and received an Honorable Mention. This year, I submitted four pieces, got one Gold Key and two Silver Keys,” she added.
The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, which began in 1923 in Pennsylvania, has long recognized students for their written and visual work in exhibition, publication and scholarship—with the highest honors being bestowed upon Gold Key members at local ceremonies. This year’s ceremony honored a remarkable group of students, grades 7-12, who received the prestigious Gold Keys for their exemplary art and writing submissions. Each student also received a citation from Philadelphia City Council, regionally recognizing them for their work.