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Young artists strut their stuff at Warhol [The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review :: ]
[February 23, 2014]

Young artists strut their stuff at Warhol [The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review :: ]

(Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (PA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Feb. 23--It's been 90 years since Maurice R. Robinson, a Pittsburgher and founder of Scholastic Inc., started the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Since then, millions of teens have participated in the awards, earning their place alongside such esteemed award alumni as Richard Avedon, Ken Burns and Sylvia Plath, to name only a few.

The exhibition component of the competition, "Art.Write.Now.Tour 2013-14," has made its way to the Andy Warhol Museum, a fitting place considering Warhol won a Scholastic Art Award in 1945 for a painting he created while a 17-year-old student attending Schenley High School in Pittsburgh.

"Andy's Gold Pin was incredibly important to him, giving him the confidence and willpower to drive forward with his art career," says Warhol Museum director Eric Shiner. "For a young man, this award was all the reassurance he needed to confirm that he was on the right track." The exhibit contains more than 130 pieces of art and literary works from students around the country.

"We're delighted to be hosting the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards exhibition here at the museum, both to remember Warhol's award and to commemorate the fact that Scholastic started right here in our own backyard," Shiner says.

That backyard was Wilkinsburg, where Maurice R. "Robbie" Robinson founded the business he named Scholastic Publishing Co. in 1920. At first, he published a magazine called the Western Pennsylvania Scholastic, which he put together in his mother's sewing room at their Wilkinsburg home. It became so popular locally that, two years later, after renaming it Scholastic, it achieved national circulation.

In 1926, Scholastic published its first book, a collection of writings by student winners of the Scholastic writing awards, and by 1930, Robinson moved the business to New York City.

When low-priced paperback books became available after World War II, Scholastic entered the school book-club business and began offering classic books at 25 cents.

Scholastic expanded internationally in 1957 when the company opened an office in Canada. The company published books under its division, Scholastic Book Services, which were offered to schools via mail-order catalogs.

The company continues in that tradition today, publishing educational materials for schools, teachers, parents and children, and selling and distributing them by mail-order, via book clubs and fairs, and through their online store.

Currently, Scholastic has more than 9,000 employees, trades publicly on the NASDAQ, and, as of 2012, had a reported revenue of $2.148 billion, thanks in part to the exclusive United States publishing rights to the Harry Potter and Hunger Games books series.

Last year marked the 90th anniversary of the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, which Robinson founded in 1923. In 2013, the awards attracted more than 230,000 submissions in 28 categories, including dramatic script, journalism, humor, novel-writing and science-fiction, along with painting, sculpture, photography, fashion design, film and animation, and video-game design.

The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards are administered by the nonprofit Alliance for Young Artists & Writers and recognize student achievement in the visual arts and creative writing in the United States.

Teens in grades 7 through 12 can apply for the chance to earn scholarships and have their works exhibited or published. Submissions are juried by a panel of luminaries that this year included Edwidge Danticat, Myla Goldberg, Kurt Andersen, Red Grooms and Elizabeth Wurtzel. Works were judged on originality, technical skill and the emergence of personal vision or voice. More than 1,600 students were chosen to receive national medals.

Cash awards totaling $200,000 are given, and graduating seniors are eligible for an additional $8.5 million in scholarships from more than 60 colleges, universities and art institutes across the country.

For example, for her print "Le Negre Marron" (2012), Kathia St. Hilaire, a senior at Alexander W. Dreyfoos School, West Palm Beach, Fla., won a regional Gold Key award, then went on to win a national Gold Medal, making her eligible for a scholarship.

Patrick Hulse, a senior at South County High School, Lorton, Va., won a regional Gold Key award and went on to win a Portfolio Gold Medal for his drawing portfolio. Scholarships of $10,000 are presented to 16 students earning Portfolio Gold Medals.

Hulse's "Valentine Portrait," on display here, is one of several drawings he did based on 1950s poster advertisements that emphasize "humor and imperfection," he says. "I used color pencil to create the drawing and wrapping paper to create a backdrop to cause the drawing to stand out." Sam Huber, a junior at Kings High School, Kings Mills, Ohio, won a Creativity & Citizenship Award for his photograph "U.S.A. Made," which focuses on "foreign dependency," he says. "My focal point is the American hero who uses his freedom to express his views." Huber was one of only three winners of a Creativity & Citizenship Award of $1,000 each, presented to artists and writers with works that deal with immigration and identity.

It's worth noting that there are several works on display by younger artists, as well. For example, "Head Case," a documentary photograph of a cranial operation by Seanna Harris, an eighth grader at Bak Middle School of the Arts, West Palm Beach, Fla., is a real standout for its starkness. It garnered her both a regional Gold Key award and a national Gold Medal.

Of course, there are many more fine examples on display, too many to mention here, making it a must-see exhibit before it comes down March 2.

The exhibit has already been on display at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia and the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, N.M. It will next go on to Cheyenne, Wyo., where it will be on display in the Laramie County Library from April 12 through May 15.

Kurt Shaw is the art critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at

___ (c)2014 The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Greensburg, Pa.) Visit The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Greensburg, Pa.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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