The magic of the Scholastic Art Awards

The west-end walls of the Regis Center for Art are most often reserved for temporary exhibition space, student experimentation, and classwork displays. Tables and chairs are usually occupied by undergraduates — either rushing to finish assignments or fitting in a few zzz’s before class. The lighting is dim, the halls are drafty, and if it’s critique week, tensions are high.

That was simply not the case during the month of February. For 18 glorious days, the walls of Regis were covered floor to ceiling in bold, vibrant, shiny, shimmering, glittering, glazed, gold key receiving artworks of all sorts of mediums — and the artists? They were 7th to 12th grade art students, many of whom went on to receive entire portfolio honors at the Minnesota Scholastic Art Awards.

paintings on a wall
paintings on a wall

Taking my time to view each and every piece in Regis with careful observation, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic. When I was in high school I won a silver key, and my memory of the ceremony is unusually vivid. Honored and completely overwhelmed, my parents, my sister, and I piled into the car — a rare family affair — and drove downtown to the Milwaukee Art Museum where the Wisconsin Scholastic works hung on display. My art teachers were there, I beamed as I walked across the stage, and I wore my key pin proudly for the rest of the day.

I never did get my hands on that gold key, but I think much of my honor and excitement stemmed from the constant encouragement, guidance, and reassurance from my art educators. Art surely would not have become as important and urgent to me as it is now if it weren’t for them. I kept my educators in mind as I browsed the Scholastic work in Regis. There’s something so refreshing about the idea of young artists who are just beginning to navigate their artistic roles and identities. Each work is honest, energetic, and alive in the portrayal of the artist's unapologetic spirit.

On February 23, students gathered at WAM with their family members and friends for the 2019 awards ceremony. Among the keynote speakers were local artists, UMN BFA candidates, art professors and faculty, and WAM’s very own director, Lyndel King. Congratulations to all who received awards and honors this year. We can’t wait to see what you create next!