Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Local Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Program Saved by Art Teacher

Sixteen years ago, the local Scholastic Art & Writing Awards program was in danger of disappearing from Jennifer Baldwin’s region of Erlanger, Kentucky. The local organization that hosted it in the past announced it would no longer be running the program. Jennifer, just settling into a new high school teaching position, wasn’t about to let The Awards go without a fight. “All of those years students spent developing their portfolios for possible scholarship consideration evaporated in that cancellation letter,” she recalls. ”I didn’t know exactly how I would do this, but I wasn’t afraid to try.”

But how could one art teacher raise $15,000 to keep the program going?

A Regional Affiliate has to process thousands of submissions every year, organize public events like exhibitions, readings and award ceremonies; convene expert panels of professional artists and writers; and promote the program to local schools. Jennifer also had to find a place that would accept up to 4,000 pieces of art for evaluation. Needless to say, it took knocking on a lot of doors to find space and funding. “In my mind I was thinking, ‘What are you doing? But another little voice said, ‘just keep doing.’” In the end, Jennifer pulled together the funding from a mix of donors and matching grants and found a funeral home to host local the show! For a time, she even ran the program out of her house.

In 2001, Jennifer founded Art Machine, Inc., a Newport (KY) nonprofit, to provide and enrich young artists in the greater Cincinnati (OH) area. The nonprofit also serves as an umbrella organization to run The Scholastic Art Awards and to ensure the program’s continuity.

She now bears the two titles proudly: Executive Director, Art Machine, Inc., and Regional Affiliate Coordinator of the Southern Ohio, Northern Kentucky and Southeastern Indiana Art Region. Jennifer is a passionate advocate of The Scholastic Art Awards, having witnessed its far-reaching impact of students’ lives over the years. “I always mention at our annual ceremony that in our audience (of award winners), there are students who will change our culture as so many of the program’s alumni have done. Parents also make a point to tell me how much it means to them too.”

The program also receives support from Summerfair Cincinnati and has come a long way since the days when its regional exhibition was hung in a funeral home. This year, the region boasts a National Art Portfolio Gold Medalist, Sean Pettiford, who received one of 15 $10,000 college scholarships. Outcomes like this are exactly why Jennifer dedicates the time and resources to the program: “The best part of running this program is helping kids work toward their dreams and goals.”

Photo, above, left: Local Scholastic Award winners from
Southern Ohio, Northern Kentucky and Southeastern Indiana Art Region the pose for a shot. Photo courtesy of Art Machine, Inc.
Photo above, right: Celedon. (Selection from portfolio). Sean Pettiford. 2010 Portfolio Gold Medal, Ceramics & Glass. Grade 12.


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