Inspired to create at the 2011 Art & Writing Awards
It was the second time I was at Carnegie Hall covering the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards at Carnegie Hall, and I was bouncing off the walls.
Every year, the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards honors teenagers from around the country for their art and writing. But they also present the Alumni Achievement Award, which honors older writers for what they have accomplished in their lifetime. It's one thing to see the art of a well known artist, and another to meet the artist himself. And on Tuesday night, I actually got to interview the artist, an experience I found very interesting.
This year's Alumni Achievement Award recipient was John Baldessari. He's a world renowned conceptual artists whose work includes painting, photography, and film. When he was a teenager, he won a Scholastic Art and Writing Award, and now at 80, he has won the Alumni Achievement Award. My favorite piece of art that he's done is a photograph called "Beethoven's Trumpet". His art is full of wonderful, whimsical ideas. For example, "Beethoven's Trumpet" is a giant ear with a big funnel connected to it. The ear is Beethoven's, and the funnel is his trumpet. The piece of art hangs on the wall, and the viewer can walk up to it and shout into the trumpet. But because the ear and trumpet are so large, it makes the normal-sized person look very small. Works like these have sold for millions of dollars.
When I sat down with him, I was pleasantly surprised. He was very down to earth, as well as being a kind, gentle, man, willing to share the high points in his career with me. It was like talking to an old friend.
"Your only competition is yourself," he told me, his voice sounding like an oboe. "And all of art history."
I also met and talked to Victoria Ford, a high school senior from Memphis, Tennessee. She won two gold medals for her poetry and nonfiction writing. One of the things that struck me about her was her childhood. It wasn't as a childhood should be. Her mother had been convicted of drunk driving three times and was in prison. Her father, a former state senator, had been charged of taking a $55,000 bribe and was also in prison. Her home was going to be foreclosed on, and she and her three siblings were about to be placed in foster care. But at the last moment, an extremely kind aunt saved them.
When asked how she felt when she writes, she told me her feelings were mixed. "Sometimes I am crying," she revealed.
I get inspired by stories like Victoria's and thinking of all she had been through. The hardest thing in my life is my math homework. But the hardest thing in her life is much bigger than that. When I look at these artists and how much they have been through and achieved, I am more determined to create something, or make something happen. Whether that means putting another painting in the world or writing an essay, I want to be make the world a better place, just like these artists have.
Photo: Kid Reporter Grace McManus interviews artist John Baldessari backstage at Carnegie Hall, May 31, 2011. (Photo: Scholastic)