The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards is an annual awards competition, structured to spotlight the talents of students in grades seven through twelve, and potentially discovering and nurturing future leaders in the art and writing fields. Previous winners include trail blazers like Andy Warhol, Sylvia Plath and Truman Capote.
In 2009, the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers contacted the Philadelphia Arts in Education Partnership (PAEP) to act as a regional affiliate for the award. With the help and recruitment of the PAEP, at least one child has won the highest award, the Gold Key, each year.
For students from Philadelphia, Montgomery, Bucks, Chester and Delaware counties, this is a huge opportunity for them to show off their talents at a regional and potentially national level. Students can submit work to 28 categories, including Architecture, Comic Art, Ceramics and Glass, Digital Art, Drawing, Fashion and more.
Once at the national level, they have the opportunity to win not only the awards, but also scholarships. Each year, 15 participants receive the Portfolio Gold Award, where students who submit a portfolio of work are recognized for excellence, plus $10,000. Additionally, through the Scholarship Provider Network, the seniors who are recognized with a national award on any level are eligible for nearly $4 million of scholarships at 60 schools. With this award, a child from the Philadelphia or surrounding area could go from dreaming of going to school, to making it a reality.
Aside from the scholarships, the awards are a chance for children to show off their exceptional talent, be recognized for it and ultimately learn what it means to put effort and passion into their work, and reap the benefits.
“We want them to have a sense of accomplishment and that their work is well done,” says Megan Lafferty, the Director of Administration at the PAEP. “We want them to grow as artists.”
To make this happen, Lafferty works in collaboration with the Philadelphia Writing Project to distribute information about and plan the awards. PAEP is charged with encouraging students to submit art, while the Philadelphia Writing Project promotes the awards to budding writers.
The planning for the spring awards ceremony, which can happen anytime between April and June, begins around October. PAEP and the Philadelphia Writing Project meet in a neutral location, like the Philadelphia Free Library, to start planning for the Awards.
Afterwards, PAEP promotes the awards using posters and postcards at schools, and the database of students who previously submitted work.
Students use an online portal to upload their work, which will later be judged by a panel of multifaceted artists and writers with versatile backgrounds, making them ideal judges for the variety of work submitted by the participants.
Last year, the PAEP saw an influx of submissions from the younger end of the eligible population. “A number of 7th and 8th graders won Gold and Silver keys,” Lafferty says. This is a sign of growth and influence of the awards, since participants are encouraged to participate year after year. “We’re building that 7th and 8th grade base.”
Even in the first few years, the PAEP has been able to watch the awards motivate a young artist. “We had a 7th grader submit, and have watched her grow through the program,” says Lafferty. “It’s fun to watch them grow as people and as artists.”