Wauwatosa East High School students are gearing up for a tough competition: the Scholastic Art Awards. The school has a history of success with the awards, winning 12 Gold Keys in regional competition last year.
Those vying this year are hoping to also earn that coveted Gold Key, a trophy that unlocks the door to having their art displayed at the Milwaukee Art Museum and continue competition on a national scale. Gold Key winners have their art judged in New York.
The winner of the national competition receives an immediate $10,000 scholarship.
Winning such accolades doesn't come easy, and it doesn't come without competition. East students go head-to-head against contemporaries from some of the biggest and best schools in the nation.
Kelley Frederick Mizer, an East art teacher who helps Advanced Placement students put together their portfolios, said she doesn't remember a year that East hasn't won a Gold Key. She's been teaching for 15 years.
Mizer added that East students get an edge on their rivals by putting in extra work. She said that many student go to the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design or stay after school for four to five hours to hone their skills.
Each senior taking AP art classes is making a portfolio, although competing isn't mandatory due to the $20 fee. Nearly every senior submits their work, however, due to the amount of work put into creating their portfolios.
"I feel like this is a strong year," Mizer said. "My husband is always telling our kids that hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard."
Students won't find out who won what until the awards ceremony, scheduled for January.
An honorable mention
The Scholastic Arts Awards aren't the only art competition East students take part in. The Young Arts Awards, which have taken place this year, are the first.
The Young Arts Awards pull the same amount of competition as the Scholastic Art Awards. More than 10,000 students from across the nation submitted entries this year.
Those that win are flown to Miami, get roughly $10,000 in scholarship money and get intensive art training.
East students took a shot at the awards, with only one getting a mention. The mention, however, meant that East senior Ian Powell scored in the top 4 percent of 10,000 entries, won $250 and became an arts alumni, giving him all the benefits of the Young Arts Association.
Powell won with a project design called "Perception." He created a package, logo, business card and letterhead for a fake snowboarding company, complete with patterns and designs for the clothing.
He's also going to take a shot at winning a Gold Key with a design portfolio. Although he has won awards for his fine arts and feels like design is his strong suit, he loves to infuse comedy in his art.
"I'm always imagining things in my head, and I feel like I haven't always been able to interpret what I'm thinking on paper - but I can now," Powell said. "It's fun because I can watch my ideas form in front of me and show them to other people. I really like to show my art off."
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