They may not have state championships with cheerleaders or pep rallies, but Wauwatosa art students do have the Scholastic Art Awards.
Thirty-one students won Gold Keys in the competition and will have their work displayed at the Milwaukee Art Museum through March 16. Their work will be judged in the national competition in New York.
Not only are students judged in visual arts, but writing as well. There are 28 categories of art students can submit their work to.
For many students, winning a Gold Key is a validation of their work as an artist, said Wauwatosa East art teacher Kelly Frederick Mizer. For those who don't win, she noted, it's an important lesson that art is subjective.
Some of the students she thought were sure shots to win Gold Keys didn't even get an honorable mention, she said.
"It's always a double-edged sword," she said. "We're excited when they do go, and we're also really disappointed for the kids who we thought should go. That's just the nature of competition, and the nature of any show."
Wauwatosa West student Maureen Vento was an artist on the wrong edge of the sword her entire high school career. She submitted pieces each year and never won.
Until this year.
Her photo portfolio focusing on shadows won a Gold Key. When her excited teacher, Jessica Belich, told her the news, she broke down and cried happy tears.
Her dream school, she said, is the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.
"(Art is) my passion, and it might sound cheesy but it is. I know it's not going to be the easiest way to make money, but it's what I love to do."
This will be the second year West junior Talia Garrido has won a Gold Key. Her winning piece is a print depicting a jagged, abstract hand pulling a realistic hand down.
Garrido is in the same boat as Vento. She knows she wants to be an artist, and knows establishing a career after college may be difficult.
Her father, she said, asked her if being an artist was something she really wanted to do.
"I couldn't imagine doing anything else because nothing else interests me," she said. Her father responded by pledging to support her in her artistic endeavors.
Not only for career artists
Other students who don't plan on pursuing art careers did win Gold Keys.
One such student is senior Ella Arnold, who plans on studying history in college.
She won two Gold Keys — one for her crochet work and another for a paper sculpture of a human head. Her crochet work runs the gamut of fiber styles. While some more traditional work in the portfolio includes a hat and other clothing articles, she sculpts with fiber as well. A chair and glider — made purely of white fabric and sticks — are some of the more nontraditional designs in her portfolio.
Practicing art makes her think differently.
"If I had focused on that public relations and social studies mind-set, I wouldn't have the same experience as I had from going to art classes," she said.
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