“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create.” – Albert Einstein
Imagination. Say it out loud. Imagination! Even just the phonetic makeup of the word itself is somewhat magical sounding, isn’t it? Einstein, who is known for his findings in math and science and physics and all things brainy, valued the power of imagination above the security of knowledge. He said that he never actually thought in logical symbols or mathematical equations, but in images, feelings, and even musical architectures. He has been referred to as an amateur pianist, and if you search ‘Einstein playing the violin’ on YouTube, you will find the most moving rendition of him knocking out Mozart’s Sonata in B-flat (for real). Einstein was an artist, and his creative career started before he even reached his teenage years. Just IMAGINE how different the world would be if his music teachers (and other supportive community members!) hadn’t encouraged him to continue playing and discovering the world through creative avenues in the arts? Would we still be waiting for the theory of relativity? Perhaps.
We, as Jacksonvill-ians, have the chance to uplift and embolden young local artists, just like Einstein, at one of the most renowned awards celebrations coming up right around the corner. Once a year, every year since 1923, the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards have been encouraging teenagers across the country to use their imaginations, so that we never run the risk of letting the next Albert Einstein slide through the cracks undiscovered. Going on almost 100 years now, Scholastics has become the most distinguished art competition for young people in the United States to jump-start their futures. If you haven’t heard of it yet, you aren’t too late. You are reading this column right on time to be able to visit the North East Florida region’s collection of award winners’ work on display. But first, logistics…
This competition has 16 different visual art categories for students to enter. They include areas like architectural design, editorial cartoon, mixed media, film & animation, sculpture, photography, video game design, fashion, ceramics, and more. Student winners can earn tens of thousands of dollars in scholarship money for college, as well as free rides to attend illustrious art and writing camps and seminars across the country. (Plus, the bragging rights are top-notch as they are parallel to alumni winners like Andy Warhol, Sylvia Plath, and Cy Twombly, so, yeah, no big deal…) Here’s how the whole prestigious process goes down: Each region in each state encourages artists ages 13-18 to create and submit their strongest works in both writing and visual art for the online digital deadline. The Northeast Florida chapter includes Baker, Clay, Duval, Flagler, Nassau, St. John’s, Union, and Volusia counties, and is headed up by the Northeast Florida Scholastics Art Awards (NEFSAA) committee board with the help of the North East Florida Art Education Association (NEFAEA) members. These young artist submissions come from public, private, charter, homeschool–any type of art education–because the Scholastics board aims to support young artists from all practices and upbringings, and there are a ton!
An adjudication panel of local artists and educators decides on the regional winners, and this is where the exciting part finally comes in for all of you, readers! The student award winners will have their very own exhibitions in the Maker Space Gallery and the 1st and 2nd floors of the Jacksonville Public Library, and in the new Jacksonville University campus on the 18th floor of the SunTrust building downtown. Both exhibitions will host opening receptions on Saturday, February 8th at 1:30, and the student work will remain on display until March 18th.
This art show has honestly become one of my favorites every year, and I highly recommend going to view the collection in person. Seeing the fresh ideas that young people translate into their artwork will move you to tears–the good kind of goose-bump worthy, inspiring tears, and you will likely leave the show wanting to get back into the art studio yourself. These young artists are the BEST of the best, and they deserve our support.
As a DCPS art educator, I just have to brag on our artists for a few sentences because they are so awesome, and they make us art teachers so proud. Since 2013, DCPS art students have collected over $15 million in scholarship offers, and over 100 of them went on to earn awards at Carnegie Hall in New York City for their work from this competition. Just last year, we represented one silver medal portfolio recipient, and in 2019, we had a DCPS art student receive a gold medal portfolio award. (Only eight are given nationally each year.) You might be thinking these winners are all from Douglas Anderson School of the Arts (and some of them are, of course), but the truth is that we have some of the most talented young artists in every middle and high school in the region right here in DCPS. Some of the above-mentioned art award winners came from Fletcher High, Mandarin High, LaVilla, Paxon, Sandalwood, Landmark Middle, and none other than my very own art students at James Weldon Johnson College Preparatory Middle School.
We have very hard-working, devoted district supervisors and specialists here in DCPS in Laurie Hoppock and Debbie Canoura. The effort and hours that they invest in organizing and planning the awards ceremonies for our students are unsurpassed and always carried out with a smile. We are also blessed to have our superintendent, Dr. Greene, who attends every student art show, the annual district-wide performing arts showcase, and even gives keynote speeches at public art events for the Cultural Council and other community-related plugs for the arts.
Einstein knew the value of supportive educators, and is quoted saying, “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” Although Einstein quit school at 15, he never gave up on his love for learning, or inspiration, or music-making, or imagination. Jacksonville, we already have the talented students among us, all we have to do as a community is show up and never quit on them. I speak for every art teacher in all eight NEFL counties when I say I hope to see you at the Maker Space Gallery and JU’s downtown campus gallery on February 8th to celebrate our award-winning artists.