Where are They Now? Celebrating Scholastic Alum and the Launch of the 2019 Awards Season

Alyssa Dumire, Director of Children’s Education

Today is the launch of the 2019 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards! Creative students aged 13 and up may now visit the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards site and begin entering their work into this prestigious competition. FWMoA is a Regional Affiliate of the Awards, overseeing both art and writing for Northeast Indiana and Northwest Ohio, which is home to some incredibly talented students and educators.

The Scholastic Awards is the longest-running recognition program of its kind (it just celebrated its 95th season!) and counts many prestigious and well-known creatives in its ranks of alumni. Many, of course, don’t go on to become household names like Andy Warhol or Stephen King, but the impact of receiving an Award is undeniable no matter what field they choose to enter.

A photo of FWMoA intern Aaliyah Miller.
Aaliyah Miller, Scholastic Art and Writing Awards alum. Photographed by Alyssa Dumire.

We’re always happy to welcome Alumni back to the museum where their art or writing was first displayed, and we were excited to discover that one of our current interns, Aaliyah Miller, received multiple Awards during her high school career. Aaliyah graduated from Carroll High School in 2016 and has gone on to pursue a degree in Art Therapy from the University of Saint Francis. We talked about her path and perspective a couple years out from high school.

How did you decide to enter your work in Scholastic?

My art teacher came to me and said a painting I was working on could be a great Scholastic piece, and we had a lot of discussions about how to improve it and how the program works, because I didn’t know anything about it. After that, once we entered the first time, it was like “Oh yeah, let’s do it again!” Especially once you get the satisfaction of earning a Gold Key, it becomes a goal to work towards from then on.

I was a docent back in 2015 and remember sharing your sculpture with school groups, who were amazed by it! Can you talk a bit about the process and thought behind that piece?

Aaliyah Miller's winning Scholastic sculpture.
Aaliyah Miller. The Forbidden. Sculpture, 2015. Carroll High School. Photo courtesy of FWMoA.

That piece was actually not supposed to be a Scholastic piece at all! It started out as a flat piece, a bust, which happened to be my final project, and my teacher said, “Yeah, so I think I want you to build a whole man,” when we had three weeks of school left! So I went in during passing periods and would glue pieces together, secure them in place with masking tape, then go to class and come back, take off the tape, and do it again. The pieces were just scraps my teacher had from a woodworking place. My favorite “scrap” piece was actually a giraffe that ended up behind the ear—I put some pieces in that I called my “secret pieces.”

It started just with the idea of making a face from these scraps, then once my teacher said to turn it into a man, I had to think about the position. I thought it would be funny if he was reading something—like you walk into the room and there’s just a guy sitting there. The biggest decision was what he was going to be holding. That was the last aspect we put in. That book, Fahrenheit 451, is about them burning books because they’re not allowed to have knowledge about anything. There was one part in particular where this woman said she wanted to be burned instead of her books, so I thought it would work perfectly for my wooden man to be reading that book.

A close-up look at her wooden sculpture.
Aaliyah Miller. The Forbidden. Sculpture, 2015. Carroll High School. Photo courtesy of FWMoA.

How long did you spend on it total?

I started at the end of my sophomore year and had it done by October of my junior year. I didn’t work on it over the summer, so about four months.

Are you still making art? How has it changed since high school?

It definitely has. So obviously taking intro classes and learning about the principles of art and what goes into a work of art has been important. I knew some of that in high school because my instructors were absolutely amazing, and implemented that through high school because they wanted us to talk about it and pay attention to those things. Going into college, getting terminology, and figuring out what’s a good piece and what’s a bad piece. It kind of shifted from “this could be a Scholastic piece” to “this is for a class and a grade now.” As an artist, I constantly have ideas running through my head, but now I’m thinking a lot more about how and why to create those ideas. So those questions have changed, and obviously my skill has improved.

Why did you choose to pursue Art Therapy?

Well, I was set to go to IPFW to be a dental hygienist, and my art teacher was like, “is that what you really want to do?” I wasn’t really sure. So at my last Scholastic show, there was a Saint Francis booth set up, and my grandma encouraged me to go get information and apply for art school since I loved art so much—I spent every free minute I had in the art room. I wasn’t planning on it because I didn’t know much about working in art beyond the idea of a “starving artist.” I didn’t want to just make artwork and live off of that; I wanted a career but I didn’t know about careers in art. So, I pinky-promised my grandma that I would apply. I applied and I got in, and researched careers with no idea what I was going to do. I’ve always had an interest in the medical field, so I found art therapy as a way to combine those two interests. I was a little unsure year one, but there were just these moments throughout the year where I knew I was where I was supposed to be. I haven’t had any second thoughts since.

What role did your experience with the Awards have in your decision-making?

Scholastic is a whole new experience—you’re outside the classroom. The first time I walked in and saw my art in a gallery—I can’t even tell you what that felt like. People were walking around my sculpture as I’m standing there and it was such a rewarding feeling. I look at my work and think that’s a lot of hours put in, a lot of discussions, but they don’t see that. They see a first impression of it. There was one piece I got in that was my very first oil painting ever. My teacher said it was good enough to enter, but I hated it. There was a lot of scraping away and painting over, but seeing it in a museum with people looking at it who thought it was awesome and had no idea what it took to get to that point—that feeling is definitely indescribable.

Want to be a part of the next generation of great artists and writers? Check out Scholastic Art and Writing Awards to learn more! Deadline to submit to our region is January 8th, 2019!

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