Across the country, young artists work to perfect their craft, be it painting, photography, sculpture or the art of storytelling in the written word.
For 87 years, the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers has provided a means for these budding creators to put their creations up against others their age, to see if they have what it takes.
They have hosted a contest with 30 categories for students in grades 7 through 12, awarding Scholastic Art and Writing Awards to what they judge to be the best. Past recipients include Andy Warhol, Robert Redford, Joyce Carol Oates and John Lithgow, among others.
Last year, 165,000 projects were entered at the local levels and 40,000 were judged at the national level. Of these, 221 were from the Fort Wayne region, according to Maxamillian J. Meyer, curator of Children and Family Programs at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art.
“Our Scholastic Art Region had its best year ever, taking in 23 national awards,” Meyer said, putting the region in the top seven, “beating out cities and states across the country including Chicago, Houston, Miami and notably the entire states of Wisconsin, Delaware and Connecticut.”
What’s even more notable is that two of those 23 awards went to eighth graders at the same school, taught by the same teacher, Mary Hilger of Indian Springs Middle School.
Kaylee Gray won a silver medal for her digital photography, “A Way Out!” and Brooke Alexander won a gold medal, also for digital photography, “Piano Keys Up Close!” Both are currently freshmen at Columbia City High School.
Meyer praised Hilger for her contributions to her students saying she has “one of the strongest middle school photography programs in the country.” He feels that most school programs “study old dead white guys,” and the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards allow students to compare themselves with their peers.
“The kids can compare themselves to students in Chicago and New York,” he said, which he feels is less intimidating.
The regional program costs $20,000 to $40,000, according to Meyer, “but the money the kids get back in scholarships is unimaginable.”
Alexander and Gray traveled to Carnegie Hall in New York City in June for a special ceremony in which they walked onstage to be recognized for their talents. Besides collecting their medals, they enjoyed some of the sights in the Big Apple and took in a show.
In honor of the Scholastic Art and Writing gold medal winners, the Empire State Building was lit up in gold the evening of the award presentations.
The girls talents have not gone unnoticed locally either. Of Gray, Meyer says, “She’s a natural and she doesn’t know it.” He calls her “The Rock Star of art.”
Alexander would like to go into photography or computer graphics.
Some of the winning submissions have been on exhibit in a traveling art show for the first time called Art.Write.Now. This exhibit is currently on display at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art and will continue there through Dec. 5. Neither Alexander’s nor Gray’s artwork is a part of this show, but the gold medal winners are all on display, “Somewhere in America,” according to Hilger. Meyer believes Alexander’s work is on display in Washington D.C. at the Department of Education.
Any 7th to 12th grade students interested in entering in the 2011 Scholastic Art and Writer Awards contest should go to the website www.artandwriting.org  and look under “Awards.” Or call the Fort Wayne Museum of Art for more information at 1-260-422-6467 or visit its website at fwmoa.org and look under the K – 12 section.