Arlington High School Students Win Scholastic Art Awards

Two AHS artists are among those recognized in the Massachusetts region of the annual Scholastic Art  & Writing  Awards, one of the best known, most prestigious, and oldest (founded 100 years ago) creativity awards for young people. Visual Arts teacher Nikki McCulloch says that “These two students are highly motivated, creative, and ambitious in their studio practice.” The winning students earned two Silver Key and one Gold Key, the highest designation awarded. 

Congratulations to eleventh grade student Miles Weiner, whose entry Creative Machine,(shown below) received a Silver Key, the second highest award given. Miles is a student of Ms. McCulloch.


Colorful image of a Singer sewing machine.


Miles has this to say about this piece and being an artist.


As an artist, I love to make things and exercise creativity in as many ways as possible. Sewing was one of those things that opened a lot of doors for me artistically. I wanted to portray a more colorful interpretation of the sewing machine, to reflect the millions of possibilities I see when I look at it. I didn't want the piece to have clean strokes, because art is messy and that is the beauty of it.


This piece was heavily inspired by the work of Alai Ganuza, an oil painter that I have loved for a long time. Her works are generally bright and colorful still lifes. For this piece I wanted to try to add color and brightness to my own still life and I love how it turned out. I believe that this is representative of the art I want to create in the sense that in my work I try to capture reality in different ways. It’s the power of the artist to emphasize or deemphasize different things, or features. Generally, I do people and portrait paintings, but I can find pleasure in painting almost any subject.


Even though I was considered “talented at art” from a very young age, I never really submitted any art to competitions due to a lack of confidence. Being able to do that now and win means a lot to me because it validates the years of work I’ve put into my skills and art. I actually had made the winning piece for a different art competition, with the theme being “hobbies.” However, after seeing that I could submit an entire portfolio to the Scholastic Awards, I decided to enter it, since I love the piece.


I love to be creative in every way I can. Any time I discover a new way to make art, I always try it out and have a blast doing it. Though, if I had to pick three main medias that I like to work in I would say acrylic paint since I love the boldness of the colors and cannot be bothered to wait for other mediums to dry; digital painting, and the app I use is Procreate and I used it for the winning piece; and 2D mixed media, such as collages mixed with charcoal or oil pastel elements.


Being an artist, to me, means that I am able to bring things into this world that didn’t exist before. I love to create things for myself and my own joy, but also for others, bringing their ideas to life as well. I am thrilled to have won a Silver Key, especially in such a prestigious competition.”


Congratulations to Nora Botnen-Chen, also in the eleventh grade, who received two awards. Her Untitled work was awarded a Silver Key.


Image of a fanciful face made of ceramics.


Her other entry, Mud Krylon, in ceramics, (shown below) was awarded a Gold Key and will be considered for national recognition. 


Krylon paint tube made of ceramics.


Nora, a student of Visual Arts teacher Melody Wolfe Thomas, has this to say about her work.


I have been working with ceramics for four years now, and being recognized for some of my pieces was not only reaffirming for me as an artist, but the successes of the Arlington schools art programs.


Since I first began to explore ceramics as a medium at a summer program, I have not stopped being inspired and excited to work with clay. Coming to Arlington High after going to school in a different town the previous year, I was thrilled to find a welcoming studio where I could find other motivated artists and space to be creative. I made friends, got mentored, and fell deeper into a fixation with the medium and my own artistic process. With the move into the new building, the studio was even more equipped to handle a growing fascination with the medium from the student body, and the feeling of the space as a whole.


I made the pieces I submitted to Scholastic my sophomore year. They are not particularly emotional for me, I got the ideas for them and thought ‘oh yeah that would look cool’. The winner of the Gold Key, the Mud Krylon, was inspired by a collection I made of strange, ‘scary’ items, characterized and built of clay. There are many items identified in the realm of teenage debauchery that I wanted to poke fun at, and curate emotional responses to things one may not want to see on a coffee table or in a high school. The Silver Key winner came from a similar place, making something stupid and absurd to have sitting around. His grotesque expression and the cigarette hanging out of his mouth is an assault of unpleasant imagery, and I enjoy his lurking presence on my shelf.


The studio, the teacher, and other students have allowed me to feel free to make whatever comes to mind, and maximize my ability to realize these ideas, and I'm very pleased about Arlington High School’s devotion to the arts.”


Ms. Wolfe Thomas observes that Nora “ committed to her art and growth as an artist and is a generous member of our studio community. Her awards are well-deserved.” Mud Krylon joined the other Gold Key winners in an exhibit at Breed Hall at Tufts University March 16-23. Both winning students and their families were invited to attend an award ceremony at the University.