WNC High School Student Wins National Art Award
by Haley Clement
Each year, 7th through 12th– grade students compete in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, a national competition sponsored by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers with an extensive history dating back to 1923. Stephen King, Andy Warhol and Sylvia Plath are just a few of the famous names who have received awards through this prestigious program.
This year students from around the country submitted more than 330,000 works to regional competitions, ranging from poetry and editorial cartoons to video game design and sculpture. The Asheville Art Museum, with the assistance and support from the Asheville Area Section of the American Institute of Architects and the Center for Craft, Creativity & Design, sponsors Western North Carolina’s Regional Scholastic Art Awards each year. This year more than 600 students from WNC submitted artworks to be considered for awards.
As part of the 2017 Regional Scholastic Art Awards earlier this year, recent Asheville High School graduate Gillian Maurer received a regional gold key award for her editorial cartoon What Remains. Following this win, Gillian went on to compete in the 2017 National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and her artwork won a Gold Medal as well as the Herblock Award for Editorial Cartoon.
Maurer, who spent the majority of her high school arts career developing technical skills, shifted focus following the 2017 election after feeling a need to engage in political discussions through art, which inspired the award-winning piece What Remains (pictured above).
“As a white woman, I felt that I did not have enough first-hand personal experience with police brutality to create a piece from my own interactions,” Maurer said. “However, police brutality impacts our community and thereby, in some way, everyone in it. It is my belief that issues like this can only be addressed when all members of a community engage in conversation, not just those most directly and visibly victimized.”
Maurer incorporated actual quotes from several victims’ families as well as newspaper headlines into the piece, which added both factual dimension and impact.
“I wanted to emphasize how frenzied and overwhelming all of the experiences with police brutality can be when looked at as a whole while still acknowledging how valid and painful each individual experience is,” Maurer said. “Whether it is the human connection of the eyes or the emotional connection of the words, I wanted this piece to grip the viewer in a way that lets them feel a connection to a social issue that is difficult for many to think of. Hopefully that moment of connection will spark a discussion, open up a new perspective or provide inspiration for others to come to action in their own way.”
Maurer will attend UNC Asheville this fall to pursue a BFA with a minor in sociology. She plans to develop more work related to issues of social and environmental justice and believes this is the direction she would like to continue down in her professional career.
“[What Remains] was my first exploration in using my work to deal with social justice issues, but it is certainly not my last,” Maurer said. “While I am continuing to develop my work and find my voice through art, I am starting to look for ways that I can engage with others in the Asheville community on important issues.”