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Fort Wayne Museum of Art wins national award for its Scholastic Art & Writing program

Thursday, May 23, 2013 - 7:23 am

The Fort Wayne Museum of Art learned Tuesday it has received the national Gold Key for Excellence in the Field award for being the top 2013 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards regional site in the nation.

The award is given annually to a regional site or partner organization that “demonstrates extraordinary dedication to providing opportunities to creative young people; perseveres through challenges over time; and expands the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards program to reach more participants,” Virginia McEnerney, executive director of the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, said in a letter to Fort Wayne museum officials.

The alliance coordinates the Scholastic Art & Writing program nationally.

“We were really excited,” said Joslyn Elliott, the museum's associate director of children's education, said of herself and Max Meyer, the museum's director of children's education.

Elliott organizes the writing competition and Meyer handles the art.

“It was validation of all the work, time and effort we have put into it,” she said.

The museum is one of 115 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards regional sites nationwide, Meyer said. Only one receives the Gold Key of Excellence award each year.

“It definitely made our day,” he said.

He and Elliott will travel next week to New York City for the Scholastic Art and Writing award ceremony May 31 at Carnegie Hall. At the ceremony, Scholastic officials also will honor Fort Wayne Museum of Art regional winners whose work won 47 awards in national judging.

The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, which are co-sponsored locally by The News-Sentinel, are open to middle school and high school students. The Fort Wayne Museum of Art's Scholastic regional competition includes art entries from schools in 13 Indiana counties and 13 Ohio counties and writing entries from schools in 39 Indiana counties and 13 Ohio counties.

This year, the competition attracted more than 2,400 individual art entries and 70 art portfolios and more than 1,170 individual writing entries and 22 writing portfolios.

Meyer credits the local success to several factors, the biggest of which has been the decision by the museum board of directors and Executive Director Charles A. Shepard III to invest in improving and expanding the Fort Wayne regional competition.

The museum took on organizing the regional Scholastic competition in 2004, succeeding a community arts group that had done it for years.

Museum officials said previously they now invest $35,000 to $40,000 in holding this regional. The money allows them to make entry more affordable and accessible, and to provide teacher support and other services to help students produce high-quality work.

During the last few years, that investment has resulted in area students being offered a combined total of more than $1 million annually in scholarships, museum officials have said.

To improve the selection of regional winners advancing to national judging, the museum also switched to using a three-person judging panel for each entry category. Each panel includes a teacher, a college educator and a professional working in that field, and also strives for diversity in age, gender and ethnicity.

In addition, renowned local photographer Tom Galliher assists by taking high-quality photos of all of the pieces of art advancing to national judging, Meyer said. National judges base their decisions on viewing digital images of students' art rather than having the actual art work sent to them.

The result has been a dramatic increase in the number of area students winning national awards — from 16 in 2011 to 30 in 2012 and 47 this year.

The 2013 winners include a South Bend student who won a national Gold Medal Portfolio award in writing, which includes a $10,000 cash prize.

A Fort Wayne student also won a Gold Medal Portfolio award in art in 2011 — the first time that had happened in 26 years, Meyer said.