All-American Team of Young Artists

Nationwide contest brings to Boston a wealth of winning student works in many media

OF his gold medal-winning sculpture, 10th-grader Andrew Bach explains that neither his parents nor teachers were the source of his inspiration. ``It just came from inside,'' he says. Andrew, a student at Highlands High School in Ft. Thomas, Ky., fashioned his award-winning fish out of copper wire. He is one of 75 students who came to Boston recently to be recognized as a member of what Dick Robinson, CEO of Scholastic Inc., has termed ``the all-American team of young artists.'' On display here are the top 500 works from over 200,000 entries in a nationwide art competition sponsored by the academic publisher.

Another of the big winners is Jessica Murdock, who just graduated from the Norwich Free Academy in Norwich, Conn. Jessica received recognition in the areas of fiber arts, textile design, and ceramics. Her portfolio, containing two years of her work, earned a $1,000 cash scholarship from Strathmore Paper, as well as a year's tuition at the School of Art and Design of the Pratt Institute in New York.

Although the scholarship is worth about $2,000, Jessica says she will begin a four-year program at the Museum of Fine Arts School in Boston, instead. Among her pieces on display are a pencil drawing self-portrait and a ceramic jug.

Out of seven courses in Jessica's last semester, five were art-related. Most of the art work in her portfolio was done in school, but the amount of time the student winners have devoted to artistic pursuits varies as widely as their work.

At the opposite extreme from Jessica are students like Kevin Koch, from Milwaukee, Wisc. ``I would just sit in school, get bored, and doodle,'' he explains. ``It turned out I was pretty good.'' The discovery of his gift led Kevin to enroll in general art courses at his school. His ``doodling'' has resulted in a gold-medal print, the striking portrayal of an inner-city youth, poised with gun in hand, entitled ``The Last Temptation.''

Susan Fryer graduated this spring from Irmo High in Columbia, S.C. Proudly accompanied to the opening by her teacher, Susan received gold-medal recognition in the pencil-drawing catagory. ``Drawing has always been such a pastime that it's hard to say when I got really serious about it,'' she notes. This is Susan's first national competition.

Having found encouragement from both parents and teachers, Susan will be pursuing an education in the arts. But she feels a broad foundation is also important, so in the fall she plans to attend Pennsylvania State University, where she will major in art, with a minor in English.

The award-winning works fill the large second-floor lobby of the Massachusetts State Transportation Building, near Boston's theater district. A wealth of paintings, photos, drawings, sculptures, and works in other media provide a delightful representation of the creative abilities of America's youth in an era when art education generally receives less funding than in the past.

There is nothing timid about these works. Whether they are precise computer graphics or abstract paintings or sulptures, the students' bold uses of color and form catch the eye in each of the catagories.

Among the winners on display can be found pieces giving some insight on a teen's perspective on world issues in the '80s. ``Ugly Reality'' by Matthew Gollnick of Carmel, Ind., was inspired by a photo in National Geographic magazine. The piece took Matt five weeks to complete, using pen, colored pencils, and air brush to depict a starving infant in the eye of a kaleidoscope of human skulls.

ONE sculptor, Christopher Barth of Central Square, N.Y., portrays a squatting man in ragged sweats, poignantly entitled ``The Undeserving Poor.'' And, a vibrant watercolor by Janice Wen of Jackson, Miss. colorfully portrays a jubilant crowd of cheering spectators in the rain. Concern over world hunger, politics, and social inequalities can be found among the vivid scenes of seemingly carefree high school days.

The scholarships, tuition grants, and cash awards offered in conjunction with this year's contest totaled over $250,000. This is the 62nd year that Scholastic Inc. has sponsored this national competition for student artists in grades 7 through 12.

Over 200,000 entiries in 14 catagories ranging from watercolor to jewelry and metalsmithing were entered this year. The winners, which are displayed in a different city each year, are being shown here in Boston through Sept. 8.

Chuck Wentzel, director of the exhibition, is pleased with the range of artistic materials and levels of creative talent displayed by the students each year. ``The art provides a unique insight into interests and concerns of our nation's young people.''

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