Welcome back to our blog series dedicated to spotlighting those who have participated in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards over the program’s past 100 years. Every week leading up to the national Awards ceremony at Carnegie Hall in June, we will be sharing the stories of some of the program’s incredible alumni whose lives have been impacted by the Awards.
This week we’d like to introduce you to Winston Chmielinski, an independent creative director who resides in Berlin, Germany.Originally from Boston, Winston attended Roxbury Latin School, an all-boys private school where he described himself as a “very stubborn, somewhat directionless” student. That is, until the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards entered his life. Thanks to a diligent teacher who doubled as Winston’s advisor, Brian Buckley, a painting of his was submitted and consequently selected as a winner of a regional Scholastic Award his freshman year – a pivotal moment in his young life. From the moment Winston received his first Award, he found himself on a trajectory that led him to develop a community with like-minded students outside his school, receive the Marie Walsh-Sharpe Summer Art Program scholarship, and ultimately be part of something bigger than himself.
Through the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and his teacher, Brian, who introduced him to the program, Winston started identifying with his artistic side and found his footing in school. “The Awards were not only compelling to me internally as a form of validation for my work, but were something that was outwardly recognized as fruitful as well.”
This external validation led Winston to feel confident in his abilities for the first time, and he ran with the feeling. From a Boston Globe cover story that featured his award-winning painting, to hosting exhibitions at local cafes and ice cream shops, Winston soon felt empowered to share his art with people in real life and on the internet during these formative years, ultimately winning two Silver Keys for his art portfolio as well as the American Visions Award for one of his paintings in 2006 to cap his high school career.
Upon graduating from Roxbury, Winston spent a year in Paris before attending NYU Gallatin to study liberal arts. While he didn’t want to major in art, he did want to live an artist’s life. He carried paints around wherever he went, and even found a home with a collective of artists based on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.After college, Winston joined the roster of Envoy Enterprises, a gallery on the Lower East Side, before moving overseas to Berlin, all the while continuing to express himself through his art, this time with a larger peer group and perspective.
For Winston, the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards were a catalyst to deeper self-exploration over time. While he initially thought he wanted to be a painter forever due to the recognition he received, he simultaneously felt like he was ignoring other interests. Eventually, he tired of working for galleries and producing a certain brand of work that was uniquely his, and turned to the tech and fashion industries for a change of pace. As his professional goals continued to evolve, so too did his relationship with the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards: he now participates as a juror, judging students’ work in a variety of categories.
“I would say that the most powerful evolution for me as an artist has been reflecting on the experience and initial validation I received, and now being able to come back to the Awards as a juror with the nuance of looking at an incredible submission pool and seeing the level of sophistication from young artists.”
Becoming a proponent for young artists through the Scholastic Awards has impacted Winston tremendously, as he not only found a way to give back to the program that helped him develop as a young artist, but also truly believes that the Awards offer students the opportunity to take a holistic approach to their work.
“It’s fascinating to see how much the categories offered by the Alliance have changed over the years to account for shifts in technology and culture. I’m so happy that the Awards continue to choose a diverse group of people to look at students’ work as the validation narrative is so important for kids these days. I’ll personally never forget the shift I felt from being a confused student to gaining a greater purpose through the Awards.”
To learn more about the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, please visit artandwriting.org. And be sure to return to On Our Minds next week for our next alumni spotlight!
Images in the body: Davit Tchalidze, Vivian Kvitka