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.
Today we will be closing out this series with our two final Gold Medal Portfolio recipients: Myah Jackson-Solomon from Towson, MD and Yasmeen Jaaber from Chesterfield, VA. Myah’s nationally recognized art portfolio, Mindscape, explores Myah’s own mental health journey over the course of the past year through a series of six sequential paintings. Yasmeen’s nationally recognized writing portfolio, I Want To Talk About Love, is a collection of passionate pieces of prose that explore the different experiences and types of love within life.
What was the inspiration behind your award-winning portfolio?
Myah: The work in my portfolio, Mindscape, is a series of pieces which act as outlets for different thought processes and mental changes I wanted to record. Throughout the body of work, I made use of adding multiple versions of myself to represent different states of mind, as well as to experiment with more surreal compositions. Each piece is exploring either my mental health at the time, or a specific state of mind or idea that I find myself often coming back to.
Yasmeen: Since my portfolio is pretty strictly autobiographical, the inspiration behind it was my life and the people in my life. I talk a lot about my family and relationships I've had with different people over the years.
Do you have a favorite piece from your portfolio? If so, which one is it, and why is it your favorite?
Myah: My four-figured guitar painting, “A Calming Rhythm,” is my favorite piece in the portfolio. I made the painting to present the feeling that playing guitar gives me; allowing me to relax and clear my mind when I am struggling to empty my head. It was a completely independent idea, not stemming from any assignment I was given, which gave me a lot of freedom, and I was much more stylistic with my approach to the piece, especially with the faded background.
Yasmeen: I don't think I have a favorite piece from my portfolio, but the most recent one "the politics of paw patrol" represents me in a way that is current, so I do have more of a connection to that piece.
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?
Myah: I read a writing piece by Yasmeen Jaaber that explored a young girl’s experience and mental recovery from a sexual assault by a boy from her German class. It was beautifully structured, tying in the theme of German class throughout the entire work; starting by introducing her German name and what it meant to her, and then beginning every section of her story with a small sentence starter or title in German, like short phrases a foreign language student would have memorized after homework. In the end it returns to when it started, after Pia had begun therapy following the painful experience, as she learned to value herself again and see the beauty in her, the same beauty that she saw in the name she had chosen at the beginning of class.
Yasmeen: The piece was Duality of Mind by Myah Jackson-Solomon. It reminds me of the children’s books my mom used to have that were about Black hair. One of the books was Please Baby Please and the other was Bippity Bop Barbershop. These books were really important parts of my childhood, because they were some of the only children's books with Black children centered in them.
If you could have dinner with one notable artist or writer, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Myah: I’d want to eat with Claude Monet. I wouldn’t be particularly interested in making conversation, I’d just want him to teach me how to choose a color palette.
Yasmeen: It would have to be Audre Lorde. I feel like Audre Lorde is the writer that made me feel emboldened to call myself a writer, which was a really important moment to me. I'm also in love with her writing, her politics and just want to know what she would say about today's world. t
What’s next for you? What are your plans for the future?
Myah: I am going to UMBC as a dual major in computer science and animation. I seek to get a job in video game development with a graphics artist or animation role, and possibly a programmer role as well.
Yasmeen: In the fall I plan to attend Bennington College to build connections with other writers and hopefully other artists in general. I also plan to revitalize my love for writing that has kind of dimmed during quarantine, and branch out to other art forms as well.
Image: "Duality of Mind," Myah Jackson-Solomon/Alliance for Young Artists & Writers; Writing: "German II. Vocabulary Quiz," Yasmeen Jaaber/Alliance for Young Artists & Writers