This year, more than 1,700 students received national recognition in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, the nation’s longest running scholarship and awards program for creative teens. Among them, 16 high school seniors received the program’s highest honor: the Gold Medal Portfolio, which includes a $10,000 scholarship. Each week, we’ll highlight two of these students, one artist and one writer, to learn a little more about them, their craft, and their award-winning portfolios.
This week, we’d like to introduce you to Brianna Blue from Brooklyn, NY and Sylvia Nicholas-Patterson from Lakeland, FL. Brianna’s nationally recognized art portfolio, As We Know It, explores themes of domestic life and the dynamics of Brianna’s family, which she represents through a series of six richly colorful oil paintings. Sylvia’s nationally recognized writing portfolio, My Loveless Memories, is a collection of poems written from her own, personal thoughts, experiences, and memories.
What was the inspiration behind your award-winning portfolio?
Brianna: My portfolio is about domestic issues in my familial relationships and community. The inspiration behind this theme all started with a prompt of “creating based off social issues that are dear to you.” I enjoyed this theme because over the past year I got to see my family interact more than ever and was inspired to create something beautiful even if the interactions were not.
Sylvia: 99% of my poetry stems from my childhood. I grew up in a low-income city in New York, festered with internalized racism, grief, and abuse; but that place, and the people within it, held moments of joy, peace, and Black excellence. So I write to forget those bad times, as writing separates me from those events and leave my mind with happier memories—the ones I need to last a lifetime.
Do you have a favorite piece from your portfolio? If so, which one is it, and why is it your favorite?
Brianna: I admire all my pieces because I can vividly remember the process and moments when I was planning and creating them but a favorite is "Immersed". This piece was the second created in my portfolio and not only do I love all the small details that correlate to something bigger while tying together the painting but the colors are very vibrant. I love the technique of blending I used where the colors all stand on their own but tend to fuse together too..
Sylvia: "Exulansis" resulted from nightmares that turned into a chaotic writing sprint in the middle of the night. The poem underlines my internalized homophobia in a comphet world—the hate I had against myself caused me to overthink each and every decision I made, especially in my church community. "Exulansis" elicited some of the deepest emotions from me, and the tears I had shed while writing are etched into my memory.
You were able to read, or see, a piece of work from another Gold Medal recipient’s portfolio. Which piece was it and what was your impression?
Brianna: The piece I was able to read was "moving on when healing never comes." When I skimmed over the first few lines of this poem I got really excited because I was connecting all these details together and felt as if the writer and I had a lot of things in common. As I went back to read it fully and more composed I was in shock due to how talented this person was and hoped to receive the honor to have a conversation with them.
Sylvia: I got the pleasure of seeing "The System" by Brianna Blue, and I’m absolutely in love. Her piece is organized chaos—the havoc is clear within the hostile plants and water; but the brushstrokes all meet at a point of focus, the calm within the beautiful storm.
If you could have dinner with one notable artist or writer, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Brianna: Currently I would say Alice Neel as I have seen her exhibition at The Met recently and as I was looking at her many paintings I found many similarities in the subjects we choose to paint and that intrigued me to see how we both went about it differently.
Sylvia: Without a doubt, Allison Joseph. In my opinion, she’s a master of time and storytelling when it comes to poetry. I’d love to sit with her and exchange life stories—guaranteed, my jaw will remain open the entire time.
What’s next for you? What are your plans for the future?
Brianna: This coming fall I will be attending Pratt Institute on a full ride. I hope to major in Communication Design and find some room to study in Art Therapy. Outside of education it has always been my dream to travel due to my art and I believe this award has made that dream come more into sight.
Sylvia: I was accepted into Florida International University’s Connect4Success program this fall semester! Through the program, I’ll be attending Broward College for my AA and transferring to FIU. I spent so much of my life relying on others to financially and academically aid me, so I have the chance to become self-sufficient in the future. My intended major is event management, since I want to be a wedding planner in the future.
Image: "The System," Brianna Blue/Alliance for Young Artists & Writers; Writing: "moving on when the healing never comes," Sylvia Nicholas-Patterson/Alliance for Young Artists & Writers