This year is the 100th Scholastic Art Awards, the premier art competition in the United States for students in 7th-12th grades. Regional winners will be honored Feb. 5 at Springfield High School (SHS), and their artwork will be exhibited at the Springfield Art Association (SAA) February 5-23.
Many passionate individuals make this competition possible. Rosemary Buffington is one. She co-chairs the regional competition. The SAA is an enthusiastic partner. "It is so important for all to see that strong visual art programs still exist, and local students are excelling in them," said Betsy Dollar, SAA executive director. "I believe that some of the most imaginative works that we exhibit each year are in that show."
The Mid-Central Illinois Region covers 33 Illinois counties and was started by Rod Buffington in 1984. Students from this region submitted more than 600 entries. Art educators are crucial to the process. Beth Pianezza is one of 45 educators enabling their students to apply. "My role as a teacher is to foster an environment for students to feel encouraged to create artwork that conveys their personal worldview," said Pianezza, SHS art educator. She guides students in selecting artwork and helps them photograph and submit their work. Amy Lynn, Glenwood High School art teacher, says one of her most important roles is to inspire her students. She believes one of the best ways to do that is to encourage them to enter their creative artwork in the Scholastic art competition.
Panels of judges consist of local artists and former art teachers who select the winners in multiple categories, such as photography, painting and drawing, sculpture and more. Jurors select works that exemplify the award program's core values of originality, skill and the emergence of a personal vision.
Gold Key awards represent the highest levels of achievement in originality, personal vision and technical skill. American Visions Nominees are Gold Key winners, considered best of show. Three of the five selected American Visions nominees are from Sangamon County – Jenna Robeen (Rochester High School), Katherine Minch (Springfield High School) and Sophia Corredato (Williamsville High School).
Of the 47 Gold Key award winners, 20 are Sangamon County students from Glenwood, Rochester, Springfield, Springfield Southeast and Williamsville High Schools; Franklin Middle School; Lincoln Magnet School; and Rochester and Williamsville Junior High schools. Winners of Gold Key awards and American Visions Nominees are automatically entered in the national competition. National jurors will select one nominee from each region for the American Visions Award. The Mid-Central Illinois Region also bestowed 68 Silver Key awards and 124 Honorable Mentions.
The regional awards ceremony is Feb. 5 at 1 p.m. at SHS, the first in-person event in three years. Mayor Jim Langfelder will present the Mayor's Choice Award. Lincoln Land Community College will present a $1,000 scholarship to a student with an outstanding portfolio who plans to attend LLCC. Other monetary and gift card awards will also be presented, thanks to sponsors and other partners.
Feb. 5 is also opening day for the SAA exhibition (700 N. Fourth St., 11 a.m.-3 p.m.). The exhibition includes all of the entries receiving Gold Key and Silver Key awards and American Visions Nominees. Honorable Mention artworks will be projected on the wall of the gallery. The exhibition will be open Feb. 5-23 (Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m.-3 p.m.).
The SAA will also host an Honors Day on Feb. 24 for students and their teachers. All Gold Key recipients are invited, and each teacher may bring two students who entered the competition. "The students are released from their regular classes and come to the SAA for two workshops, one in the morning and one in the afternoon," said Dollar. "In some cases, they are exposed to media and processes that their schools don't offer. In other cases, it is a chance to work with a professional artist for a couple of hours and gain a new perspective."
The students' creativity will also be showcased throughout the community. Artwork will be displayed on a digital billboard on Chatham Road near Wabash Ave. during March and April. Organizers are working with Ace Sign Company to feature student art on bus benches this spring.
Top regional winners across the country are entered in the juried national competition and also considered for scholarships. National medalists and scholarship recipients are honored at a ceremony in New York City in June. National winners are also featured in an exhibition in Washington, D.C., and traveling exhibitions.
Teachers proclaim the benefits of this program. "Scholastics is a wonderful way for young artists to see what kind of art is being created in our region," said Amy Lynn. "The Scholastic Art Awards competition provides students the opportunity to gain recognition for their artwork locally and nationally, empowers them to trust that their voice is important and celebrates their creative endeavors," said Beth Pianezza.