A fascination with light and an escape to Costco helped two Memphis teens win some of the highest honors in art and writing awards, following the footsteps of Sylvia Plath, Andy Warhol and Stephen King.
The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards granted Hutchison School senior Amellia Hausmann the Gold Medal Portfolio Award, the program’s highest honor given to 16 high school seniors across the United States, while White Station High freshman Vivian Fan earned the American Voices Medal, the highest regional honor.
“I always hoped for a national award, like maybe I’ll get a silver medal or it would be really great if I got a gold medal, so this year it just exceeded all of my expectations,” Hausmann said.
Hausmann, 18, received a $10,000 scholarship along with the Gold Medal Portfolio Award, given to eight art portfolios and eight writing portfolios, for her art collection “Sun Dried,” a series of bright watercolor paintings focusing on the way light hits fabric.
After searching for inspiration for her advanced placement art class project she found herself intrigued by shadows and how they affect colors. For a better understanding, she studied some art that played with lighting from Jeffrey T. Larson, an artist known for his realist still life, figure and portrait paintings.
“He used clotheslines in his art, and I thought that was a really cool way to get that effect of sunlight on moving fabric,” Hausmann said. “I wanted to make sure I had all those elements of sharp highlights and deep shadows, so that’s where (my art) came from.”
Hausmann needed to create seven original works for her final portfolio, and her teacher encouraged her and other students to submit the paintings to the Scholastic competition.
Hausmann said it took a full school year to finish all her pieces, and she submitted six of them to the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards along with a personal statement.
She will graduate in May and attend the Savannah College of Art and Design where she will major in user experience design — a cross between graphic design, business and technology, she said, with possibly a double major or minor in painting.
“The exploration of colors, patterns, and textures in Amellia’s body of work titled ‘Sun Dried’ is impressive,” said Tendo Mutanda, director of programs and partnerships for Alliance for Young Artists and Writers.
“Both the jurors and scholarship committee were blown away by the effortless, simple joy expressed in Amellia’s paintings. It’s like you can literally take in a breath of fresh air on a sunny day,” Mutanda said.
‘O Costco! My Costco!’
For the writing contests, winning the Mid-South region Gold American Voices Medal, Fan wrote “O Costco! My Costco!”, a parody of Walt Whitman’s “O Captain! My Captain!”
“I was just doing homework, and I saw that I had won a gold medal, and I was really surprised,” Fan said. “It’s humor and you don’t really think about it … it’s like a less serious form of writing.”
Fan, 14, said her dad encouraged her to enter the Scholastic competition, and because the COVID-19 pandemic put a stop to most activities, there wasn’t much else she could participate in.
She wanted to make people laugh and create a tribute to her dad who escaped to the wholesaler during the pandemic.
“I was reading some other entries and thought the parodies were pretty good, I wondered if there was anything I could connect my life to something I’ve read before,” Fan said.
“This year it’s just been my dad going to Costco and he always likes to talk about it because he works from home now, so Costco is like his one day out in the world.”
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Winning the medal gave her an appreciation for humorous writing.
“Writing is supposed to make people feel things, and laughing is one of those feelings which I think is pretty important,” Fan said.
The high school freshman hopes to continue pursuing writing and submitting to the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, aiming for another gold medal.
A snippet of her Costco poem, courtesy of Fan and Alliance for Young Artists & Writers:
O samples! Samples! I will not let you tempt me so,
To eat means to lower my mask, so onwards I must go,
And the shopping cart rolls on, and I begin reminiscing,
Of times before and all the morsels that I would be tasting;
O Costco! My Costco!
Katie Schrodt, Middle Tennessee State University professor, worked with the Middle Tennessee Writing Project, the regional affiliate that oversaw the judging, and said the judges nominated five writings but Fan’s was exemplary.
“We worked with judges across the state to select works that most exemplified originality, technical skill and the emergence of a personal voice,” Schrodt said. “Each of these elements clearly shines in Vivian’s work.”
The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards is a scholarship and recognition program for students in grades 7-12, ages 13 or older. National nonprofit Alliance for Young Artists and Writers conducts the awards, which allow creative teens to win scholarships and financial aid.
Some of the previous notable Scholastic art and writing winners are Sylvia Plath for artwork and a poem, Andy Warhol for a painting he made at 17 and Stephen King for a short story titled “Men of Straw,” he wrote in high school.