Fort Wayne Museum of Art staff didn't like rule changes that had regional Scholastic Art judges huddling around computers to look at photos of art rather than looking at students' actual creations. But the value of the national program far outweighs the challenges posed by the change, they said.
Along with improving the chances of receiving college scholarships, receiving top awards in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards bestows recognition on students who may not get it in sports or other school activities, said Charles A. Shepard III, museum executive director.
In addition, having their art and writing displayed in the museum's main gallery empowers students, Shepard said, telling them, “Somebody wants to look at what I have to say.”
Awards recipients will be honored at a ceremony at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Grand Wayne Convention Center, 120 W. Jefferson Blvd. The ceremony is free and open to the public.
Middle school and high school students' 563 winning art entries and 534 winning writing entries also will be displayed Sunday through April 6 at the Museum of Art, 311 E. Main St. The Fort Wayne regional competition is organized by the Museum of Art and co-sponsored by The News-Sentinel.
In previous years, students or their teachers delivered each student's art to the Fort Wayne Museum of Art for judging. The art entries included sculpture, jewelry, ceramics, paintings, drawings, photography and more.
Winning pieces then were photographed by local professional photographer Tom Galliher, and the museum sent his digital photos of the art to New York for national judging.
This year, the national Scholastic organization, which is based in New York, required that students and schools had to submit all art entries online as digital photos of the students' work, Shepard said.
The Fort Wayne Museum of Art tried to help them adapt to the change by investing $5,000 in photo kits, training and other assistance so schools could submit the best images possible of students' art work, said Max Meyer, the museum's director of children's education.
At the regional judging Jan. 18 at the art museum, judges sitting around a large video screen held up cardboard signs reading “In” on one side and “Out” on the other to vote whether three-dimensional art works stayed “in” to advance to receive an award.
Judges gave the rule change mixed reviews.
Derek Decker, an artist and teacher at University of Saint Francis, said he prefers to look at an actual piece of art rather than a photo of it because he can better judge the scale of the work and the quality of the craftsmanship.
He also voiced concern that the quality of the submitted photo could impact the judges' ability to evaluate a student's art.
Fellow judge Usma Mirza, a local artist and architect, also believes it is better to evaluate students' actual art.
However, judging photos of the art gives students a better idea of how things will be done in the real world, Mirza said. Competitions, as well as galleries selecting art to exhibit in shows, now usually require that artists submit only digital images of their work for review.
“I think we did a fair judging,” she said.
Ironically, use of online entry system helped dramatically this year because snow and bitter cold canceled the first five days class in January.
With only three days until the Scholastic entry deadline, the museum had received only about 500 entries. More than 3,700 art and writing entries arrived during the final three days, pushing the total to a record of nearly 4,300.
Museum staff aren't sure how the change to judging only digital images of students' art will impact local winners' success in national judging.
National judges will evaluate local Gold Key award winners' work based on the photo the student or school submitted to the regional competition, Meyer said.
Meyer believes Fort Wayne regional winners will receive at least 20 to 30 awards in national judging.
Shepard also thinks Fort Wayne will finish in the Top 10 among all regionals nationally based on the number of national awards won by students in each regional.
Students from the Fort Wayne regional won 47 national awards last year and 30 in 2012. Scholastic also honored Fort Wayne as the best regional in the nation in 2013.
But the competition isn't just about winning awards, Meyer said. It teaches students time management and that hard work can pay off.
It's also a way to encourage talent that may be waiting to be developed.
“We don't know where the next genius is coming from,” he said.