Warwick Valley High School junior Juliana Woods won an American Visions Medal, as part of the national Scholastic Awards by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers. She and other medalists were honored in June during a ceremony held at New York City’s Carnegie Hall.
More than 260,000 works of art and writing were submitted and fewer than 2,000 works received the National Medal. This puts Woods in the top 1% of all submissions.
“For Juliana to get this national award, that means she’s recognized as a top art student in our country,” said art teacher Kristen Spano. “That is huge! She’s the first Warwick art student to ever be a national medal recipient.”
Woods also won a silver medal for her submissions.
Teens with talent
The Alliance for Young Artists and Writers identifies teens with exceptional literary and artistic talent, and its competition – now in its 100th year – is the nation’s longest-running, largest, most prestigious recognition program for creative teenagers in the visual and literary arts. Artists in grades seven through 12 can enter works in nearly 30 art and writing categories at the regional level. Only five artists in each region move on to be considered for the American Voices Award or American Visions Award.
“Besides her incredible sense of composition and color palette, Juliana is always producing. She’s driven, focused, and so talented,” Spano said. “She’s also a leader in the classroom. With the artwork she produces, her peers admire her and go to her for advice, which I love.”
Woods said that Warwick programs like PIE and Odyssey of the Mind have done a lot to encourage her creativity and confidence and build life skills over the years.
“With the PIE program, it was definitely very helpful that creativity was encouraged in me from a very young age,” she said. “It was always naturally incorporated into whatever we were working on, so art and creativity became a very natural part of my life.”
As she began participating in Odyssey of the Mind in middle school, she enjoyed learning to work well as part of a team. So well, in fact, that her teams went to the World Finals five times.
“To learn how to communicate from such a young age with people who have different skill sets – maybe even someone you wouldn’t normally be friends with necessarily – has definitely helped me in my academic studies and in my art. I’ve built up my creative muscles, and now I’m able to use all these skills and apply this work ethic I’ve picked up from then until now,” she said.
Woods’ painting “Buy 1 Get 1 Free” was awarded Best in Show at the Hudson Valley Regional level, and became one of five submissions to move on to compete for the national prize. Jurors look for works that exemplify the awards’ core values: originality, technical skill, and the emergence of a personal voice or vision.
“I was so surprised and honored to win,” she said about receiving the award. “It is just really great to get that recognition, and to have that feeling of achieving another level. It was just so unreal.”
Line of creative greats
Woods joins the ranks of notable past Scholastic Awards winners like Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, Andy Warhol, Kay Walking Stick, Charles White, Michael Bierut, Philip Pearlstein, Edward Sorel, Red Grooms, and Gary Panter. The program’s esteemed judges have included Langston Hughes, Robert Frost, Judy Blume, Billy Collins, Paul Giamatti, Francine Prose, Edwidge Danticat, David Sedaris, Lesley Stahl, Nikki Giovanni, Roz Chast, Wangechi Mutu, Andres Serrano, Kiki Smith, Jill Kraus, Shinique Smith, Rashid Johnson, and Waris Ahluwalia.
“Buy 1 Get 1 Free” is an exceptional piece in an outstanding portfolio, and as Woods gets ready for her senior year, she is looking at art schools and said her application portfolio is pretty much ready. This summer, she will continue to explore her passion and hone her skills in an independent, pre-college art program. She’s also recently started taking painting commissions.
“Art should be something everyone can enjoy. There should be widespread accessibility, especially in our own community,” she said. “Art shouldn’t be something where you feel like you have to be at some certain level to participate. If you have a desire to make something, or go look at art, or go listen to music, you should be able to do it. Even if you feel like you’re not an artist, you can be an artist.”