AP art students earn prestigious awards through the Scholastic Art Competition


Wandering into her haven during lunch a few weeks ago, senior Meagan Ardinger arrived in the art wing to a chorus of warm voices welcoming and congratulating her placement in a competition she did not freely enter. 

All she heard was “gold,” and it wasn’t until hours later did that word truly sink in. 

Through the Scholastic Art Competition, a prestigious recognition program for teenagers involved in the arts, Meagan won a Gold Key, amongst other honorable mentions, for her portfolio—the highest award that advances the recipients to national-level recognition. 

“I walked into [the art wing] and like three different people were yelling that I won gold,” Meagan said. “It was really overwhelming. It didn’t really sink in until I got home and was telling my parents about it.”

A few weeks prior to this pinnacle moment, art teacher Tyler Fewell introduced the competition and insisted that every AP student enter their work. With persistent pushing from Fewell, Meagan’s initial hesitancy and low expectations for her artwork were buried under Fewell’s guidance and, as she put it, “force.” She compiled her digital art into a portfolio, paid the fees to enter, and anticipated the moment where awards were announced, careful not to get her hopes too high. 

Fewell credits this hesitation, a shared feeling among the AP students, to the vulnerability of art and the unknown of the competition. Earning an award from such a prestigious competition, he felt, would hopefully raise their confidence—more than compliments from peers or himself could. 

“It’s one thing to get informal recognition from your peers or your teachers,” Fewell said. “It’s different to put that work into a formal competition and to be recognized for that. A lot of the art types type tend to be a little more hesitant to put themselves out there in that way, so it requires a pushing.”

Senior Iman Hearing, another AP art student who Fewell encouraged, admitted that, if it weren’t for Fewell’s persistence, she would not have known about the competition or the prestige of it. Finalists have their works displayed at Kendall College for the month of February, and the Gold and Silver medalists advance to the national-level competition where the winner gets their work displayed in New York, along with $10,000. 

While Iman’s watercolor paintings did not place as high as she would have liked, she recognizes the importance of the competition that Fewell pushed, both in prestige and preparation for future endeavors.  

“I’m not super satisfied, but I’m happy that I at least got a nomination,” Iman said. “That means I at least get something because I get a certificate for it. This was a first for me, and it was pretty interesting because I had never done something like this before, so I didn’t really know what to expect. But I think it will help me in the long run if I end up doing more competitions.”

Being their first competition, both Meagan and Iman could not have anticipated the amount of time and effort entering required. To submit portfolios, the Scholastic Art Competition enforced certain guidelines, including an artist’s statement explaining the art and the process behind it. 

But, they were not alone in this process, for this was not Fewell’s first competition. He guided every AP student in picking their best works for their portfolio, ensuring that they followed the guidelines, and actually submitting their pieces. 

“I made sure [the students] knew where to go because they had to go online and sign up on their own,” Fewell said. “I really help them as much as I can but for whatever reason, [the Scholastic Art Competition] has it set up kind of where the ball is in your court. So, you know, it really is their artwork, and they had to make it happen.”

And they all made it happen. 

Every single AP artist who entered the competition won a title, whether that be an Honorable Mention, a Silver Key, or a Gold Key. And while each student had their share of doubts and nerves and expectations for the results of the competition, Fewell himself was anxious; he pushed his entire class to submit artwork and would have been devastated to see anyone not place. 

“Every single one of our AP seniors that submitted work received an award of one kind or another,” Fewell said. “Which is great. Honestly, I was really nervous because, you know, I made the whole class submit. I was afraid that because it’s such a hard competition and there was no guarantee who’s going to get what, there might be a couple that didn’t. That’s kind of hard.”

But every single artist was awarded—three earned Gold Keys and five earned Silver Keys. 

As Fewell mentioned, he hoped that receiving an award from such a prestigious competition would raise each artists’ confidence, and for Meagan, specifically, her expectations for the future and belief in herself are completely shifted. 

“It’s encouraging and a little bit of a pat on the back [to win an award],” Meagan said. “If they give me an award for this, then I’m assuming they would have the same view on a portfolio to go to that college. It’s encouraging, as far as applying to art school, because it makes me more confident in the fact that I could get in.”

Before art school, or any other future endeavors, Meagan—and every other finalist—can wander into a new haven of art to enjoy their own work. To see their own art, tangible representations of their time and effort and passion, in the Kendall College of Art and Design. To bask in the passion and vulnerability of art—both others’ and their own. 

“They all are really great artists and individuals,” Fewell said, “and they all got recognized for their work. It’s all going to be in the show downtown, so we’re all pretty happy about it.”