by Scholastic Art Awards Chair Todd Bacon
It felt like someone had knocked down our sand castles and kicked the sand in our faces. The Awards Ceremonies for the Scholastic Art Awards were all set for Saturday, March 10th, at the History Colorado Center, and the day before, History Colorado made the painful but necessary decision to close the museum. Just two weeks earlier, ten volunteers had spent three days curating and installing the exhibition, which was to be on display until March 28th. Suddenly, in an instant, all the work by the students, their teachers, and the Scholastics volunteers was locked away inside the museum.
Having recently retired, I was able to participate in Scholastics even more than I had in the past. Like any endeavor of this sort, the more involved one is, the more one understands and appreciates all the effort that goes into it. I was invited to participate as a judge in photography. The judging was held over a three-day period at the UCD Visual Arts Department offices in LoDo. In all, there were 42 volunteer judges and proctors enlisted in this critical and rewarding process.
On the day that I was a judge, all the judges in the different media met in a hallway. As we introduced ourselves (see photo #1 below), I was struck by the high level of qualifications and the commitment of the people gathered there. Most were retired with 25 or more years of teaching experience at the high-school or college level. For example, Robert Dorsey, who had been scheduled to speak at our annual Rotary luncheon, is a fine-art photographer, a retired art teacher, and the former chair of the Fine Arts Department in the Mapleton School District, which has 18 schools in North Denver.
The 1,002 entries in photography were divided in half to make the judging more manageable. We worked in teams of two judges and a proctor, who helped us with the mechanics of the digital judging process and to answer any procedural questions. We ended up giving out 118 awards, which shows the highly competitive nature of Scholastics.
Once the students and teachers were notified of the winners, the art needed to be prepared for the exhibition and delivered to the History Colorado Center. For the first time, I was able to participate in the installation process. In past years, I would go to the museum for our luncheon and see all the art on the walls of the atrium without giving much thought as to how it got there. I never realized or appreciated how much work goes into displaying the artwork.
The artwork was sorted by category, such as painting, drawing, fashion, sculpture, and photography. Then, it was determined where each category would be installed in the museum. After that, the pieces were laid out on the floor in groupings, perhaps by color, theme, or style, to make some sense of how to hang the pieces in the “salon style” necessary to fit everything into the allotted spaces (see photos #2 and #3 for the photography curating prior to hanging). Fortunately for me, I was working with volunteers who had been through this process many times before. All I had to do was grab my hammer, a nail, the right piece of art, and the right placard and then bang away at the direction of the more experienced people.
I made a visit to the museum just before it closed down to take some photos of the exhibition, when a group of students and teachers from Pinnacle Charter High School happened to come in (see photos #4-10). The four teachers and the students manifested great excitement in seeing their pieces hanging in the museum, and they took turns photographing each other in front of their work. To me, this is what Scholastics is all about. Sadly, this public sense of community and pride in achievement among the students, their family members, and their teachers are what we missed this year with the cancellation of our events.
Next year, hopefully with the financial assistance of the Denver Rotary Club Foundation, we’ll be able to help the students build their sand castles once again.
(Update: Colorado’s 79 Gold Key winners in photography went on to compete at the national level in New York City, where they ended up bringing home 5 Gold and 4 Silver Keys!)
To view the Best in Grade, American Vision, and Portfolio winners, please click here.