Art and photography students win national awards

GlenOak High School students in IB Art and Commercial Photography win national medals

Aliyah Priest’s multimedia art piece titled “Good Kid, Mad City”. “For me it means everyone is they way they are because of something, so try to understand before you judge others,” Priest said.

Art comes in multiple forms. Art is subjective- it can be anything you make it out to be. As for both Jill Balderson’s and Jeanenne Mathis-Bertosa students knew what they wanted their art to become. 

In January of 2023, the students in art classes and in the Commercial Photography Career Tech found out they won multiple awards, specifically gold and silver “keys” through the Scholastic Art Awards. In March, the teachers of these classes found out they had national award winners.

Junior Aliyah Priest won the highest honor, a National Gold Medal, for her multimedia piece titled “Good Kid, Mad City”. 

“My piece is about being a product of your environment and it manifests in negative ways,” Priest said. “I wanted the audience to either feel seen or to understand someone else’s point of view through viewing my work.”

Each artwork submitted is divided into different regions made up of varying counties per state. This specific region is called the Northeast Central Ohio Committee.

“It felt unreal, at first it didn’t phase me because I didn’t know about the award and I didn’t understand what it was,” Priest said. 

The work is entered digitally and then adjudicated by judges who decide if the student will win any gold or silver keys. After being featured at a Kent State University exhibition, five American Vision Nominees are chosen but only one to be featured in the national showing. Priest was the one.

“My piece is special to me, not just because it won an award,” Priest said. “It feels special because it came out just how I wanted it to, which does not happen frequently in art.”

Senior Oliva Crowl also won an award at the national level. She received a National Silver Medal for her digital artwork titled “That’s It”.

“This piece is meant to show the struggle of anyone trying to put thoughts onto paper, which is something that conflicts me often,” Crowl said. “The emotions shown are the focal point, inner turmoil of this girl struggling impacts the way she feels towards the piece she creates.”

Crowl actually made her piece before school even started, not planning for it to end up getting anywhere.

“I submitted a portfolio of works as well as this piece on the side, I wasn’t expecting anything to come of it honestly,” Crowl said. 

As it turns out, Crowl did end up winning for this specific piece.

“Firstly, I won a gold key for the piece in the regional judging and then they sent it off to be judged nationally and that’s when I got the Silver Key,” Crowl said. 

This is the first time the Art Department at GlenOak has ever received this high of an honor, making it an extraordinary experience for the students. 

“What’s wonderful is that there’s so many famous celebrities that are on the roster, and now these kids get to have their name printed on the same list of names,” Balderson said. “You can’t go farther as a student artist.”

Of the students who won, multiple of them are involved in IB art, which Balderson attributes to the reason they won. 

“It’s presenting content in a way that gives kids autonomy, but forces them to really research and use information to craft their own works,” Balderson said. 

Not only did the IB program have a winner but so did the career tech program, specifically The Commercial Photography Career Tech.

Haliey McDaniel is a junior at the high school, she won a National Gold Medal for a portrait of her brother. 

“My goal was to keep my photo telling, but also make it feel open enough that every viewer could interpret the photo differently,” McDaniel said.

Since McDaniel is a junior, this is her first year learning how to work the film camera and being a part of photography, which made the award even more of a surprise.

I was very surprised when I won as I really was not expecting it at all,” McDaniel said. “I honestly didn’t even think I was gonna win regional, let alone national because everything was done last minute.”

This was the 14th national award winner to come from the photography department in the last 20 years.

“The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards is an excellent opportunity to have a wider audience view of the creative work that you are making,” Mathis-Bertosa said.

Given that a junior won this year, the outlook is high for the department’s performance next year.

“I’m thrilled for Haliey, I think it’s a wonderful recognition of the hard work that she put in this year,” Mathis-Bertosa said. “Knowing that she’s a junior, I have very high expectations for what she’ll enter next year.”

In June, all three of the winners are invited to Carnegie Hall in New York City where their art will be put on display, along with the other artists who have won across the United States.

This year has been a favorable year for both of these departments, and there is hope for many more winning years in the future.