Kicking Off the 2022 Scholastic Awards with Alumni Alyvia Luong

Alyssa Dumire, Director of Children’s Education

School is in session, fall is in the air, pumpkin spice lattes are back…around here, that means one thing: Scholastic Awards season is upon us! Each year, September 1st rolls around and snaps us out of our more relaxed summer rhythms as we prepare to celebrate the creative teens of Northeast Indiana and Northwest Ohio. Although our submission deadline is not until January 4th, 2022, and entries usually don’t pick up steam until December, students in grades 7-12 (ages 13 and up) can begin uploading their best art and/or writing at today! We can’t wait to see this year’s innovative, poignant, and thought-provoking work; in the meantime, we caught up with one of our region’s most decorated alumni, Alyvia Luong.

Alyvia Luong. The sin(ner) I cannot forigve. Photography, 2021. Carroll High School, Nicole Croy, Educator. Regional Gold Medal Portfolio & National Gold Medal Portfolio.

If you visited the Scholastic Awards exhibition last year, you will know Alyvia’s powerful photography that earned her, on top of NINE regional awards, four national medals. Both of her portfolios received national medals, one a Gold Medal (see gallery above) which goes to only sixteen students around the country (for context, there were 340,000 total submissions last year)! You can watch a conversation between Alyvia and Martin Mbuguah, another alum, below, but we wanted to check in with her as she begins her college career. Read on for insights into her work and process, and a glimpse into her (no doubt bright) future!

Q: How and when did you first become interested in art, and specifically photography? How has your work developed and changed so far?

I’ve always gravitated to art for as long as I could remember, but the genesis of my photographic journey can be attributed to my first iPad at 10 years old. At the time, I often captured “pretty” pictures of nature. I found beauty in the small hints of sunlight through tree branches, or the flowers amongst acres of green. Within the past 8 years, I’ve transitioned from being a nature fanatic to a conceptual artist who dabbles in a bit of everything.

Q: Describe the process of creating your National Medal Portfolio(s) (either or both!).

I always created a “plan” for every image in my sketchbook. I never walked into a shoot without knowing what I wanted the final image to look like. Of course, I had to improvise a lot, but I generally had an idea of what I wanted for every project/picture. My process can be split into two steps: the intense, detailed planning of an image in my mind followed by actually taking the steps to bring it to life.

Alyvia Luong. What’s wrong with America? Photography, 2021. Carroll High School, Nicole Croy, Educator. Regional Gold Medal Portfolio & National Silver Medal with Distinction Portfolio.

Q: What do your Scholastic Awards mean to you?

It is an opportunity to grow and connect with people who are just as passionate about their work as you are. Coming from a “small” town, it’s rare to find people like that. Doing Scholastics for the past four years really opened up my eyes. It felt like someone screaming into my ear, “What you have to say through your art DOES matter to someone, whether you believe it or not!” 

Q: How have events over the past couple years impacted you and your work?

I feel like the past few years have revealed many injustices within our society that NEED conversation. Collaterally, I began making art with a “message” because that was the strongest way for me to use my voice to uplift others and their struggles. What goes on in my life, and around the world, heavily impacts the things I say through my art. 

Q: How does collaboration factor into your practice?

I love working with other artists, especially across different mediums. Personally, I’ve shot reference images for painters before in a collaborative format — I capture a concept for myself, and the artist creates their own concept based off of my pictures. That way, we work together to build something, but we put our own spins on it!

Q: Have you been working on anything more recently that you’d like to share? Are there any specific issues or topics you want to explore?

Lately, I’ve been getting into fashion photography! I strongly dislike boxing myself into one type of style, so I’m experimenting as often as possible. All of my experimental projects range from conceptual/abstract to simply aesthetics. 

Q: I know you’re starting at the School of Art Institute of Chicago soon. Congratulations again! For anyone who might be looking to follow a similar path, what was that decision making process like? Can you share a bit more about your plans for the future (regarding your artwork, school, and/or career)? What’s the next “big thing” on the horizon?

I applied to a number of art schools and did lots of research about them all (especially on the quality of certain programs I was interested in), but the most important deciding factor in my process was the feedback I received during portfolio reviews. A RISD teacher said something that really stuck with me – your work can be technically and visually advanced and still get rejected by an art school. That doesn’t necessarily mean your art is bad. It just means it didn’t “fit” that school. I saw a related dynamic play out in a different portfolio review from what I THOUGHT was my dream art school. The reviewer’s exact words were: “You have really beautiful work, but you know, you don’t HAVE to change the world with your art. Pretty pictures can suffice.” That statement made me take a step back and ask myself, is that truly the type of environment I can grow in? Hence, I decided that SAIC was most appropriate for me educatively and environmentally — because my art “fit” the school.

I’m really excited to start at SAIC. I feel like it will be a major stepping stone in my career! I’ve also been traveling a lot for my art and building my portfolio, meeting new people, etc. As for the next “big thing” — I’m not sure yet…I have so many goals and ambitions that I kind of get overwhelmed by my imagination. But one thing’s for sure; I’m going to continue experimenting and doing new things with my art. Most importantly, I will continue to do my best to make a positive impact on the world. 

For more on the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, including how to enter your own work, visit!

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