Five students win National Scholastic Art Awards

April 19, 2022

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CONTAMINATED HOLY WATER: Senior Elena Tomchek designed her piece to express “the feeling of needing some sort of support, but feeling unaccepted from religion.”

This year, five visual art students won National Scholastic Art Awards, placing their work in the top one percent of all works adjudicated nationwide. Seniors Claire Meyers, Haley Phillips, Aiden Robinson and Elena Tomchek and junior Emily Nemeth had their work picked from over 300 thousand pieces submitted to the Scholastic Awards. 

“We are thrilled for these students and this amazing national accomplishment,” Fine Arts Department Chairperson Brayer Teague said. “Their hard work and determination, coupled with the exceptional mentoring of their teachers, [have] propelled them to be recognized at this level.”

Many of these artists have submitted various pieces to different competitions to work their way up to the national level. 

“What really brought me to this point is that I’ve had a lot of opportunities to get my art out there,” Meyers said. “For example, I submitted my portfolio to the IHSAE [Illinois High School Art Exhibition] and received scholarships from multiple universities through it. Because of that, it’s given me the confidence to submit my art more.” 

From the start of these artists’ careers to them now being nationally recognized, many have seen growth in their abilities and passion for the subject. 

“When I think back to my earlier projects, I was doing basic stuff that just ended up looking pretty and consisted of basic things like butterflies and flowers,” Tomchek said. “This year, I have really started to add emotion into my pieces, [and] some things that I have experienced and [have tried] to express them in a way that other people can relate to.”

The process of creating and submitting pieces to contests also teaches students aspects about themselves and their creative processes.

“From now on, I will pay a lot more attention to detail on my pieces because I didn’t originally think that my piece would go as far as it did,” Nemeth said. “This will definitely give me more motivation to add more detail and focus to projects so that I know that I can make my pieces go farther.”

To be recognized at the national level as a high school artist is a large achievement. For Robinson, he originally began to take art classes to satisfy his graduation requirement. However, through those courses, he found a creative, stress-relieving outlet that he hopes to continue.

“[To be nationally recognized] means a lot to me. I never would have gotten to this point without Mrs. Bican’s constant encouragement and advice,” Robinson said. “I feel honored that my piece was chosen to be among the gold medal winners. There are so many creative works in this competition, and the fact that mine stood out for the judges makes me feel that all the hard work and time put into this project was worth it.”

For some students, art is more than just a hobby or a class during their school day. Inspired by their classmates, their passion for the subject and their hands-on, caring teachers, they look to pursue art after graduation. 

Phillips, who has always considered a career in education, now considers pursuing art teaching given her classroom experiences.

“As this year went on, I saw how wonderful and amazing Mrs. Bernard is and realized I don’t have to be in a [traditional] classroom to teach and help kids,” Phillips said. “I could be in a ceramics room and make an impact, too. I have no idea what the future holds but I know in the end I will be happy.”

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